I don’t ever want to forget his face when he came rushing through the door from school, exclaiming that there were kids at school who were “scared of not getting gifts.”
“And _____ is scared that if she isn’t good, then she won’t get any presents!!!”
“And _____ is scared that if he doesn’t make good choices, then he will get coal!!!”
“And there is an elf who sits places and watches what they do!!!”
Child was freaked out.
It was an absolutely astounding thought for our boy and one that left him shaking in his school shoes.
“Is that even true, Mommy? Does that really happen?”
It had never occurred to our boy that his behavior dictated the gifts under the tree.
And honestly, I’m really glad it was a new and even disturbing thought.
“Oh, buddy. I can see why maybe they think that. See, there’s some people who talk about Santa bringing gifts to children who make ‘good choices’ and are ‘nice.’ And if kids make ‘bad choices’ and are ‘naughty,’ then they don’t get presents. And though that is a fun tradition to help encourage ‘good behavior,’ we believe there’s a flaw in that thinking.”
And then I began to share the Christmas message, the Gospel of Good News.
We talked about the gift of Jesus and the gift of grace. We talked about the Law and our inability to be “good enough.” We talked about the breaking of the Law and the gift of perfect forgiveness. We talked about the child in the manger who stood in the place of our imperfection. We talked about God extending a gift that spoke of His mercy, not of our mistakes. We talked about God’s gifts being independent of our choices and our behaviors. And we talked about our inability to attain His gift of love by being “good.”
And as we talked, our little boy breathed a sigh of Christmas relief.
Now I’m not suggesting that teaching Santa is wrong; I’m not (and not just because this Christian mama doesn’t want to touch that topic with a 2,345 foot pole, wearing bullet proof clothes and fire proof gloves). No. I’m not touching that topic because I think there are a LOT OF WAYS to celebrate Christmas in a LOT OF GOOD AND GODLY WAYS. And ain’t no need for no self-appointed mama-elf to step in and play “King, Christmas Elf” for the rest of us. No need.
But here’s what I am going to suggest as we talk with our kids about Christmas and the Gospel.
We need to focus on reminding our kids (and ourselves) that Christ came for the NAUGHTY because ain’t no one was NICE and ain’t NO ONE was worthy of any gift of grace.
Because in the presence of a perfect and Holy Giver, we are all broken, busted, and bruised. We are all messed-up, screwed-up, lost and less-than. We are all (every single one of us) unworthy and undone at the foot of the tree.
We can’t earn His gift, and we can’t lose His gift.
We can’t purchase His gift, and we can’t mess up His gift.
We can’t do ANYTHING with His gift of glorious grace except humbly accept it, recognizing that the Giver’s goodness isn’t based on ours.
Because that’s what Christmas and grace is all about–being gifted an unmerited, undeserving gift in Christ…accepting and receiving an offering of manger-love that we haven’t purchased and certainly don’t deserve.
And for that, I breathe a sigh of Christmas relief.
Because not a single gift that sits beneath the tree of His perfect love has a single thing to do with my choices, my credibility, or my competence.
Not at all, not even kinda.
Each and every gift that has flowed from the foot of that tree, the One lit with the Bright-Morning Star, has been based on the goodness and grace of our merciful Giver.
Because it’s not about being naughty or being nice. No, it’s about being His, the object of His unmerited, unwarranted love.