Christmastime, Clear Thinking, and Gifts
If you asked my wife, she might not guess that I do, but secretly I love Christmastime.
I don’t get wound up about lots of decoration like she does. She’s a Christmas decorating super hero! So, naturally, next to her I might appear to not care much at all. But I have a Grinch coffee cup at home and a Charlie Brown Christmas tree in my office! Wouldn’t want to overdo it, you know?
But, seriously, those kinds of things aren’t really the reason I love Christmastime.
When I was growing up, Christmastime meant a variety of things including but not limited to: no school (wahoo!), heavy blankets, carrying loads of wood, building fires, watching Charlie Brown, repairing busted water lines, opening gifts, filling ruts in the road with rocks, drinking hot chocolate, and going to church.
It’s funny how some memories stick in your head.
I remember a year when the stock tank we lived next to froze over with ice and we were stupid enough to try and walk on it. Thankfully nothing bad happened. It was the very same year the student leader at church told us that our idea of Santa, minus the elves and reindeer, was a whole lot like God.
A Life-Changing Principle
A mentor from years past once told me, “It’s really hard to think crooked and walk straight.” He would teach a discipleship principle that went something like: when your life changes, it is largely because your thinking changes.
Early in my Christian life, my thinking about a lot of things was pretty messed up; not just about life in general, but about God. For instance, I thought God was always angry or upset with me. I was supposed to be kind and loving, and instead I was selfish and disobedient. So…you better watch out. He’s watching…like Santa! If you end up on the naughty list you won’t get any gifts!
Well, I have come to believe that when you think God is like Santa, your thinking is messed up. Santa is the one giving gifts if you’re nice, and withholding if not. God, on the other hand, according to the scriptures (Romans 4:4-5), gives His gift freely…on the basis of faith, not behavior. In contrast to Santa, your behavior cannot merit God’s gift. Somehow we’ve forgotten that gifts are no longer gifts when they’re earned or deserved. Santa could learn a thing or two from God about gift-giving!
The Greatest Gift of All
Once upon a time I missed out on the joy of God’s gift because I thought my struggling behavior landed me on God’s naughty list. As you might know for yourself, there is nothing quite so life-changing as to realize God loves me simply because He loves me. In fact, God loved the whole world so much He gave us His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.
Christmastime reminds me that gifts are freely given, not on the merit of behavior, but on the basis of love. Love is not bound to behavior. Love is free.
That’s why I love Christmastime.