It’s one week until Christmas!
Thanks to fun with friends and family this weekend–and lots of cookies!–I’m finally feeling the “Christmas spirit.” I’ve also been grateful for an Advent bible study with friends–to take some time to slow down and savor the deeper meaning of the season…
I’m embracing the waiting. Feeling the spirit and the joy to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and yes, all the other enjoyable cultural traditions too; yet acknowledging the bigger picture of what we’re waiting for–when Jesus returns again!
One thing God is, is a promise keeper. His Word foretold the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, and His Word lets us know that He will come again.
One thing God is NOT… is Santa Claus.
Pretty obvious, right? Or not…rather, how much do we project our fairy tale of Santa Claus onto God? Were you naughty or nice this year? Will that mean presents or a lump of coal?
I have found for myself, particularly through my years of trial-how much those “Santa Clause” views I’ve projected on to God. I confess that as someone who grew up in church, reading the Bible, praying, etc., I knew that God’s love was different, but I didn’t always grasp it. Thank the Lord, it was through experience, that I learned to truly know it.
And you know what’s amazing? God’s love is truly mind-blowing. Forget Santa Claus!
When you believe in God, you become his child, and anything like the “naughty or nice” list is nonexistent. I’ve seen how this gets so confused–from both outside Christianity and within. Within, there can be this tendency to feel like we all must be “perfect little Christians,” and when we’re good that’s when God will bless us. And from outside Christianity, I’ve seen this tendency for people to think that they are too broken or “messed” up for God. (It’s also super common, for Christians too, to feel that their brokenness is too much for God–that he’s just on standby to punish, so we hide…)
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
For anyone who turns towards God, He embraces with the deepest of love. My brokenness, my mess-ups, my envy and greed and anger, it’s all embraced by His love. He forgives, and he loves, and he forgives and he loves, over and over.
That’s incredible, right? It is! And, in our humanly defense, it can be hard to fathom–because we don’t have relationships that model this perfectly! Even in the best of relationships, we still hurt one another, we snap, or hold a grudge for a bit, or can be slow to forgive. Not God – he loves his people over and over and over and over.
One of the best books I’ve read this year, has been “Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers,” by Dane Ortlund. It expounds upon Matthew 11:28 and various Puritan writings (who knew the Puritans had such a profound grasp on God’s love!).
With God, the “naughty” list does not mean “a lump of coal.” No, when we mess up, when we miss the mark with wrongdoing, our sin, God embraces us with his love.
“Jesus delights to heal us. “So with us, and so with Christ. He does not get flustered and frustrated when we come to him for fresh forgiveness for renewed pardon, with distress and need and emptiness. That’s the whole point. It’s what he came to heal. He went down into the horror of death and plunged out through the other side in order to provide a limitless supply of mercy and grace in his people.”
God’s love is radical-when you belong to God, he will never abandon you-no matter how much you mess up! How life-changing can that be!
And how does one become a child of God? By believing in Jesus and repenting – confessing and turning from sin. His salvation is a free gift!!
“But for the penitent, his heart of gentle embrace is never out-matched by our sins and foibles and insecurities and doubts and anxieties and failures.”
Even if it’s been decades since you believed in Santa Claus, it might be interesting to discern your heart for any Santa-esque spiritual views you might have of God. And the incredibly good news is that God, the creator and sustainer of this world, is not just a jolly fellow who rewards and punishes behavior. Don’t get me wrong, for those outside of God, Jesus will return one day and make wrong things right, but for those who are believers, he is always always always full of love and gentleness. Plus he offers gifts of spiritual fruit for this journey here on earth, and then one day in the New Kingdom, there will be glorious gifts (hello, streets of gold!) that we can’t even imagine.
Perhaps you’re reading this and it sounds hokey, or just the dusty vestiges of stories you’ve heard referenced in culture. Examine your heart-isn’t that kind of perfect love what our hearts long for? I’m not saying that proves the existence of God, but it’s a good question to ask. In the 4th century, St. Augustine of Hippo wrote: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” No matter the era, humans are the same! Every human longs for love, and don’t we long for a relationship where we’re fully loved, and accepted for all of our flaws and failures?
Consider turning to God to find that deepest of loves. There’s no “nice” list, but there is a book of life, and on it, you get a new name – and it’s beloved.
And for the Christian who is struggling with this, I pray these words are an encouragement to look deeper into God’s love to discern His heart for you. I pray that your sin, and struggle, and suffering draws you to Christ, and you experience the love of the Wonderful Counselor and Everlasting Father. Your weary soul can find rest in Jesus.
28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28