Naughty or Nice?

Can we talk about the Naughty and Nice list?

It’s totally a thing, right. Santa makes a list. He checks it twice. The whole North Pole toy making operation is run by it. Good kids get gifts. Naughty kids get nothing (or a lump of coal if you are a traditionalist!)

If you happen to get to talk to Santa this year,  he’s probably going to ask the million dollar question: “Have you been good this year?”

Let’s be honest, our culture totally buys into this. I bought into this. Lots of parents (and grandparents, babysitters, teachers etc) use the threat of the naughty list to encourage good behaviour for the whole month of December. Some even employ a cute in-house elf-surveillance system that sits on a shelf and reports nightly to Santa.

Every year though, the irony of this “list” system hits me. God sent us the most wonderful gift – specifically because we weren’t good enough. At its very core, isn’t that the Christmas message? That Jesus came to redeem those of us on the naughty list – which *spoiler alert* is everyone.

The Bible is super clear about this. Romans 3:23 says that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” I’m a pretty good person, and still I definitely could have made the naughty list many times this year. But, here is the good news: God’s grace is bigger than my sins. Even after I do or say or think something stupid that would land me on the naughty list, I don’t need to try to work my way back onto the nice list. Titus 3:5  says “He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.”

His grace and mercy covers all my failures, bad decisions, angry outbursts and nasty thoughts. And, if you have put your faith in him and asked for his forgiveness, he covers yours too. Thank God for the mercy, grace and love he shows us – at Christmas and always!

So, what can we do about all this naughty and nice list confusion. The Bible is also super clear that we should make the most of every opportunity to share the hope we have found – and honestly, there isn’t much better opportunity to share the hope of Christ than Christmas.

The next time someone asks you if you’ve been good this year, or whether you have been naughty or nice – be honest. Christmas is about a good, good God coming to rescue a people who forever fall short. Even the best of us has had bad moments this year – and that’s when we can most appreciate the gift of Christmas. Christ came to redeem the lost and the naughty. Praise God.

Share that around the dinner table with your family. Share it at a coffee shop with a friend. Make it your facebook status. Paint it on a mug. Cross stitch it on an ugly Christmas sweater. Tell someone today how glad you are that God’s gift isn’t dependant on how good you are, and that God sees your sin and chooses mercy and grace anyway- and that’s the blessing of Christmas.

BUT a word of caution… When someone casually asks you if you have been good this year, they probably aren’t prepared for you to drop a whole theological response, complete with the tracks and the mini-New Testament that you’ve been keeping warm in your back pocket waiting for the window to pounce! Remember what it says in 1 Peter 3:15 “…Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…”

Don’t be a jerk. Don’t be obnoxious. And, don’t preach a 20 minute message to the mall Santa while the other kids are anxiously waiting in line.

If the opportunity comes up casually to chat about this, be ready to simply respond about how blessed you are that God’s gift of grace and mercy in Jesus isn’t dependant on being good or making the right list. Be gentle. Be respectful. If someone asks more questions, be ready to tell your story of hope and faith. Not sure what to say? Look at the shepherds in Luke 2 – they simply told what they had seen and heard. That’s all you have to do. Your story doesn’t need to be fancy – it just needs to be genuine and point others to the hope you have found.

God’s gift to us this Christmas is awesome, and it doesn’t matter how naughty or nice you have been. His gift is for you. I pray that you will receive his grace and mercy and have an amazing Christmas celebrating who he is and what he has done.

 

Embracing the Imperfect & Balancing Mary and Martha

“Martha, Martha,” the LORD answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed-or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42.

When it comes to hospitality and housekeeping, I wish I was wired just a little more like Martha – especially heading into the Christmas season! I have this vision of how I’d like things to be heading into Advent, and instead of setting the perfect table for my family this weekend, I can’t even put out my wreath yet! First, I need to dig out my table – which is currently buried under piles of craft stuff, homework, unopened mail and other artifacts proving that a busy family without a Martha mindset live here!

With or without a clean table and a wreath ready, Advent is starting tomorrow and I don’t want to miss it. I love Advent. I have lots of memories of sticking evergreen branches and candles into circular Styrofoam bases as a child, and the first candle lighting signaling the start of the Christmas season in my world.

The great news is, that despite my Martha-deficit, Jesus reminds me that the one thing that matters isn’t how pretty I make my table, but having a heart that is focused on hearing from Christ. For these four weeks, I’m seeking to spend time daily sitting at Jesus’ feet and learning from his word – choosing what is better. Just like Mary, I’m seeking to focus on that one thing that is actually needed.

It’s a balance though – I don’t want to awaken my easily frustrated and disappointed inner perfectionist that will stress about irrelevant details and notice what we lack from how the commercials, malls, and social media posts tell me that Christmas should look. I know that I don’t need a pintrest perfect holiday, and that if I try for pintrest perfect, I’ll stress myself and my family out to the point that we won’t enjoy any of it!

I’m prepared and ready to celebrate an imperfect Advent – honestly, it’s in those imperfectly real moments that memories are made, and I will embrace that! But, my inner Martha does need to wake up just a little and clear the table! I need just enough of a Martha-mindset to be ready and able to extend hospitality and comfort to my family so that we have space to sit around the wreath, light our candles, and prepare our hearts together. So, I’m off to work to get a few things prepared and ready.

What are you seeking this Advent season? Are you ready for an imperfect Advent season too? What do you need to get there? I’d love to hear your comments, ideas and goals in the comment section below.