If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)
One of the most poignant moments for me during the Christmas holiday was on Christmas Eve. My daughter sent a text saying my grandson was in bed “sweating bullets” that he had not been good enough for Santa to bring him any presents. That was a touching moment for both Merideth and me. He is all boy—full of life and high on emotion—and has been in kindergarten and learning the challenge of boundaries. On one hand he can react in ways that get him in trouble. On the other, I see him with a strong desire for the approval of his mother and dad as well as his teacher. It has been an interesting year that has led to this fearful moment of self-reflection before the big day.
As we reflected on that moment we first wanted to relieve him of the fear. After reflection we thought that maybe all of us ought to have more of that heart before God, not Santa Claus. That place of knowing that we don’t measure up is the beginning of being prepared for the forgiveness that only God can provide. It prepares us for the good news of Jesus. Trying to be good enough is the pursuit of Santa.
Ironically, after Christmas, our daughter was trying to influence his behavior with a “Santa is still watching for next year you know.” His response, “I wasn’t good this year and he still brought presents.” How incredible children are with their insights!
Too often we make Christianity about ‘being good enough’ instead of being forgiven. I remember once sitting with a church member in a hospital waiting room hoping her husband’s very serious surgery would turn out well. She told me how he had always tried to be good and do the right thing as if his goodness would determine how God would respond to him. In our churches we can look at ourselves with an eye to what we have done that commends us in God’s sight. We talk about our accomplishments in life, how many professionals we have, what community leaders are a part of our fellowship or how we hope the community is affected by our good deeds. When people outside the church look at our lives and say that we don’t measure up they are correct! But they are also telling us that somehow we have communicated to them that it is about us being good enough for God. That is not the gospel!
We come to God in Jesus Christ, not because we are good, but because we are broken. We haven’t made the grade. We have failed. If we compare ourselves to others hoping God grades on the curve—we are missing what Jesus’ coming is all about. Mother Theresa understood that in spite of her many selfless good works they were not enough to achieve holiness in the sight of God. She knew she needed the forgiveness of Jesus. Isaiah said that human righteousness is ‘like filthy rags’ in God’s sight. Trying to be good enough is the pursuit of Santa Claus, not Jesus.
That is why the gospel is good news. We have been forgiveness in Christ. When we are honest about our brokenness and our need for God’s forgiveness there is a tremendous power we can have by receiving that forgiveness and His Spirit.. And it is also good news to those around us. I want to be a part of a group of people who know the incredible joy of being forgiven, not a group of people comparing their spiritual qualifications and accomplishments.
I pray that my grandson will not quickly lose his tenderness toward his lack of goodness. I also pray that there will come a day when that inability to be good enough will lead him to someone who tells him about the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. I want him pursuing Jesus not Santa Claus.
Thanks for helping me focus today. It’s all too easy to start off a new year running without taking time to reflect and remember God’s truth. He is good, He is faithful and only because He loved us enough to sacrifice His Son, Jesus Christ can we get up and start each new day knowing it can be a new beginning. Bless you!