By Jen Smidt
As a family, we are in the midst of celebrating the Christmas season which includes viewing all the holiday classics (Heat Miser is my favourite character) and reading all the old standbys and new favourites.
My daughter has checked out 116 Christmas titles from the library with every variation on the nativity story you can imagine. Narrators to the events of that holy night have included the voice of a snowman, a mouse, and even a seahorse.
The shelves overflow with Santa stories ranging from the troubles he encounters when he goes digital with the naughty or nice list to the ways he determines who is naughty or nice.
The Santa books far outweigh the nativity books because Santa is a guy we can get our heads around…we like the list. We like the neat and tidy categories that the list offers and the obvious ramifications of our behaviour.
We have even successfully marketed a ‘$30 “Elf on the Shelf” helper to make sure we manipulate our children into good behaviour so they can make the list—if only for those precious 24 days when the elf is watching. They are described as:
Excellent listeners and even better observers, these scout elves are the eyes and ears of Santa Claus. Although they cannot be touched, or else they may lose their magic, the elf will always listen and relay messages back to Santa. Taking in all the day-to-day activities around the house, no good deed goes unnoticed; these scout elves take their job seriously.
Why we are willing to trust the pointy-eared gnome and not the baby in the manger?
Naughty or Nice?
Certainly we have a hard time determining if someone is naughty or nice. It’s not as simple as, “All Christians go on the nice list and all those other guys, the heathens go on the bad list. Clearly, they deserve a spot on the dreaded naughty list.”
The Bible makes it simple though: we all make the naughty list. None is righteous, no, not one (Romans 3:10). That’s bad news.
The Gift of Good News
The good news is that, despite our list making tendencies and legalistic leanings, the list was crushed by the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes. He is the only one who made the list. Because he made the list, we are given the gift of him. His righteousness, his perfection, and his “niceness” are bestowed upon us with list-shattering grace.
Don’t Diminish the Babe into a Toy
We are offered something much greater than a shelf-bound elf that will hopefully report our good deeds to the red-suited guy up north so we can receive blessings. We are offered the grace of God who appeared in a lowly manger as a helpless baby. Sometimes it seems easier to hang our hopes on the elf.
Grace Doesn’t Make Sense
We have been given a Saviour who drenches us in his righteousness and does not add up our deeds — good or bad — into a tally for a quantifiable list.
It never makes sense in the economy of good=blessing, bad=trouble. By grace, our badness becomes righteousness. Our “goodness” often needs to be repented of because it dismissed the necessity of Christ.
Everything about this gift of Jesus given at Christmas is radical—turning bad into good, babes into kings, legalistic lists into glorious grace. Merry Christmas!