Do you remember how long you believed in Santa? I remember slowly doubting when I was about seven. He became suspicious when my brother and sister began to make fun of me. But I didn’t want to stop believing. Christmas was magical. Santa made it so.
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 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. But then, it was over: The magic, the mystery, the futile fight to stay awake just for a glimpse of Santa.
My faith would be restored if I could see him just this once. Then, with tears streaming down my face, I could tell him that my brother and sister were VERY naughty all year and should both be turned into lumps of coal!
But that didn’t happen, and now I was doomed to a reality I was unwilling to face. I imagined the next thing to go was the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. And then what? I couldn’t bear it!
But wait! Discovering Santa is likely the invention of parents who simply run out of creative ways to keep kids in line a few weeks a year may have a positive side.
(1) 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 had to buy for a few kids and have deeper pockets. Sweet!
(2) You would not have to share the cookies and milk with him. You know how you always hated sharing, you little Grinch!
(3) You could complain about the gifts received and demand they be returned to the store. However, you can’t return gifts to Santa because that would make him angry!
(4) 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.
(5) What about those stupid pictures on Santa’s lap? He was creepy and made you cry.
(6) And – best of all – there would be no pesky “list” Santa would check to ad nauseum. “I’m watching you, you little monster. I saw what you just did to your sister! That’s going on your permanent record.”
Okay, enough about Santa. Let’s get serious. 1 Corinthians 13:11 tells us we should put away childish things. You’re an adult now….right? Right?! It should be no surprise to you that Christmas was never about Santa. Give me a great big “DUH!” I can’t hear you. Oh, Lord…I’m afraid this is not going to go well! But let’s just jump right in. Shall we?
What about Christ? What about your faith? If you say you’re a Christ-follower, there are profound implications to consider. Professing Christ does not simply amount to the word games we play to dodge God’s wrath. It doesn’t matter how you talk about Christ or what people see on the outside if there is still a void on the inside.
What matters is how you “live” Christ in your day-to-day. Are you indeed “living” Christ’s message to love others and serve a hurting world? That should come from the 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 think 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 fuss over, gossiping, weekly therapy. They all require your valuable time.
God will have to find someone else to do the other work that doesn’t appeal to you. How about that retired guy down the street? He needs something to keep him busy and out of his wife’s hair.
Do you simply go to church on Sunday, hide in the back just to get your card punched, and sneak out before anyone notices? Then be sure you skip “Mission Sunday,” and “Sponsor a poor family Sunday,” and “Stewardship 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.
And best of all, having “religion” in place of relationship makes you accountable to no one. So you can just skip merrily along without ever having to “give an answer” to anyone for how you lived your wretched, despicable, miserable life. Sounds lovely.
If you must relieve occasional guilt for your indifference to the world around you, send a check – commensurate with the size and scope of that guilt – to a charity of your choice. You could take it out of those excess funds you spend so frivolously on your pathetic selfish self.
So there you have it. That’s how underwear ends up in your stocking, and Jesus becomes irrelevant. Neither is a pretty sight, and 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. But it’s 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 evident 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.
So, come on now, take that leap of faith. What you might find this Christmas are blessings beyond your wildest imaginings and a new year filled with wonder and awe – presented by our God, who longs to love you deeply and extravagantly!