This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. ~1 John 3:10
It’s funny, the many different ways Christmas has been secularized. In most cases a symbol of something profound and holy has replaced the original thing and the sacred meaning has been lost or minimized.
Advent is definitely one of those things. In ancient times Advent was much more important to the church than Christmas day itself. Like Lent, it was a time of waiting, preparation and self-denial culminating in the receipt of the greatest gift ever given: God’s own Son for mankind’s redemption. And not just the first time 2,021 years ago, but also the long awaited Second Coming when we will receive not just the promise of heaven, but heaven itself will come to earth.
This profound mystery of God’s redemptive plan of salvation for the family of man has been minimized by our culture and reduced to a picture of children waiting for the arrival of a jolly man bearing physical gifts in the form of toys, candy and fruit. You can hear the echoes of Advent in the words of the Christmas classic ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’:
You better watch out
You better not cry
You better not pout
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
He's making a list,
He's checking it twice,
He's gonna find out who's naughty or nice
Santa Claus is coming to town
He sees you when you're sleeping
And he knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness’ sake
Watch out, He’s coming! Well, that’s the central theme of Advent, isn’t it? ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord.’ Christ has come and Christ is coming. So, knowing that He is coming and that His coming is closer today than yesterday, how should we live? Well, we better not cry or pout!
You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! ~James 5:8-9
He’s got a list and He’s checking it! Have you been naughty or nice?
“Yet there are some in the church… who have not soiled their clothes with evil. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine. ~ Revelation 3:4-5
He knows ALL about you. He sees you at all times and knows the thoughts of your heart:
O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
So be good, for ‘Goodness’ sake.’ Well, God is Good, and God is Love and God is Jesus. But to say we should be good for ‘Goodness’ Sake’ to me minimizes the profound heart of the matter, the fundamental point of the Gospel message:
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. ~1 John 3:16-18
God loved us so very, very much that while we were still sinning, and still far from a relationship with Him, He sent His one and only Son to give everything He had – his very life – to rescue us from Hell and from current and eternal separation from the love of God. This love is profound, so holy, that our response should be unspeakable gratitude and love so strong that we willingly lay aside our will, our possessions, our very lives in service to Jesus as his hands and feet to bless others.
Somehow the message of GIVING our resources, our time and our talents in service to others at Christmastide and throughout the year as an acknowledgement of the debt paid on our behalf which we could never have paid ourselves, has been replaced with RECEIVING gifts which are owed because of our good behavior. The sinless Savior who was ‘God with us’ and who gave his own life as the greatest gift to all mankind has been replaced with a ‘right jolly old elf’ in a red suit who gives gifts only to those who are worthy.
I’m not a Scrooge who says “Bah, Humbug” to decorated trees, flying reindeer, elves on shelves or even Santa. But I DO believe in keeping CHRIST in Christmas. The Grinch didn’t have to bother stealing Christmas, it seems that Madison Avenue, Hollywood and modern culture has done that for him. But “what if Christmas…doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!” If we who know the Truth of Christmas share it as freely as we pass the cookie platter, maybe a few hearts will grow three sizes…not from sugary sentimentality, but because they are now filled with the Holy Spirit of a loving God Almighty.