Do you remember how long you believed in Santa? I remember slowly doubting when I was about seven. Santa became suspect when my brother and sister, who are older, began to make fun of me. But I didn’t want to stop believing. Christmas was magical. Santa made it so. For a child Santa is the reason for the season (we can only hope they outgrow that belief).
One year, my brother and I found all the presents wrapped up and hidden in a closet two weeks before Christmas. We shook them and then carefully peeled the tape away to see what was inside. Then wrapped them back up and put them back in the closet. As you might imagine, Christmas morning was a terrible disappointment to me. I couldn’t even pretend to be excited about the gifts I received, even though some were what I had asked for. It was over: The magic, the mystery, the futile fight to stay awake this time, just for a glimpse of Santa. If I could see him just this once, my faith would be restored, and, with tears streaming down my face, I could tell him that my brother and sister were VERY naughty all year and they should both be turned into lumps of coal!
But, that didn’t happen and now I was doomed to a reality I was not willing to face. I supposed the next thing to go was the Easter Bunny, and then the Tooth Fairy. And then what? I couldn’t bear it!
But wait! Discovering that Santa is likely the invention of parents who simply run out of creative ways to keep kids in line a few weeks out of the year may have a positive side:
You were always told to keep your list short since Santa had to provide for the entire world! Now you could make your Christmas list longer and the requests more extravagant.
Parents could do more than Santa because they only have to buy for a few kids and they have deeper pockets. Sweet!
You would not have to share the cookies and milk with him. You know how you always hated sharing. You little Grinch!
You could complain about the gifts received and demand they be returned to the store. You can’t return gifts to Santa because that would make him angry!
Have you ever felt that Santa would be very disappointed in you if you did not give up your “gently used” toys for kids who had nothing? You could now ask your parents to write a check to their favorite charity allowing you to keep every last toy for your pathetic selfish self.
And what about those stupid pictures on Santa’s lap? He was creepy and made you cry.
And – best of all – there would be no pesky “list” Santa would check to ad nauseum! “Santa’s watching you, you little monster! I saw what you just did to your sister! That’s gonna go on your permanent record young man!”
Now that we’re all adults here, and you’ve gotten over your obsession with Santa, what about Christ? What about your faith in Someone a bit more significant? If you profess to be a Christ-follower, then there are serious implications to consider. I would be remiss if I did not throw in God’s word about his “lukewarm” followers in Revelation 3:16, “So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Nothing ambiguous about that, right? But, we are ridiculously skilled at glazing over it like it applies to everyone else but me.
Professing Christ does not simply amount to the word games we play to dodge God’s claim on our lives. It doesn’t matter how you “talk” about Christ if what people see does not match your rhetoric.
What matters is how you “live” Christ in your day-to-day. Are you truly “living” Christ’s message to love and serve the Lord; to being Christ to a hurting world? That comes from the very core of who you are as the image and likeness of God.
Faith that is shallow and superficial can be enormously attractive to lazy Christians seeking cheap grace:
You have enough to do just paying the bills and trying to one-up your snooty neighbors. Those ladders to climb; that big house to pay for; people to gossip about; weekly therapy, and all your “charitable volunteering”, will require much more of your valuable time. So God will just have to find someone else to do his other work; the work that doesn’t appeal to you. How about that retired guy down the street? He needs something to keep him occupied, out of his wife’s hair and your business.
If you simply go to church on Sunday, hide in the back, and get your card punched you can sneak out before anyone notices you. And be sure you skip “Mission Sunday” and “Sponsor a poor family Sunday” and “Stewardship Sunday” and “How come you’re wasting your gifts Sunday?” It just makes you squirm in the pew.
Never buy into the idea that the abundant love God pours on you is a free gift – no strings attached. It’s just a trick to reel you in. Nothing in this world is “free.” You know you’re gonna have to pay him back. And from past experience you know that’s simply an exercise in futility. Better to just not accept it in the first place.
If you must relieve occasional guilt for your indifference to the world around you, send a check – commensurate with the size and scope of your guilt – to a charity of your choice. And, while you’re at it, consider tithing a little of that money you spend so frivolously on your pathetic selfish adult self.
Whatever you do, stay away from church on Good Friday! You know Jesus’ passion makes you very uneasy and almost, almost, makes you long for something more. You’re sure never going to watch that Mel Gibson movie again are you?!
And best of all, having “religion” in place of relationship makes you accountable to no one. You can just skip merrily along without ever having to “give an answer” to anyone for how you are living your wretched, despicable, miserable life. Sounds lovely.
So, there you have it. That’s how underwear ends up in your stocking and how Jesus ends up irrelevant. Neither is a pretty sight; neither will bring you joy on Christmas morning.
We can “pretend” to be excited about the whole “Jesus is the reason for the season” message as we’re reminded once again just how deeply and extravagantly God’s love is by dropping head-long into a smelly manger with smelly animals and not a bit of fanfare!
But it’s sorta like this: even if you LOVE the underwear you receive for Christmas it’s not likely anyone will know unless you wear it on the outside.
And even if you say you LOVE Jesus and your neighbor, it won’t be “obvious” unless you are carrying him and his love for you and your neighbor on the inside in that place where there is a void you have been trying to fill with other things. Then, it will spill out and manifest its radiance and glory to all the world around you!
I wish for you and your family a very blessed
Christmas filled with wonder and awe like you’ve
never imagined it!