Today, a couple of my kiddos and I had to run to our nearby mall. Knowing it was likely to be packed we ventured out as close to first thing as we could make it, in an effort to avoid the madness. One of the reasons we had to go today was because of my son's request to meet the mall Santa. Those closest to me will understand why this was such a unique request for our family. That said, we arrived, he sat on Santa's lap and when asked what he wanted for Christmas, he responded, "I don't remember". I laughed out loud because his timidity in the situation took over and my sweet boy truly forgot, or so I thought. After a little conversation, we exited and when I asked Shepherd why he had forgotten, he said he just did, but also that he knew that wasn't why he wanted to meet the Santa. He wanted to meet him for two reasons; One, when a year old, he met Santa and cried and wanted to make up for that. Two, he wanted to see that he was just a man. Shep said he knew that asking him for a present would do no good, he knew where they would come from. His little meeting was more about the legend and less about the reality because as he once said, "Jesus is the real thing, not Santa". As we wandered we listened and observed the many people around us and there was so much merry but also so much "not so merry"; parents threatening their kids over behavior versus gifts and Santa, Grandmothers snapping at grandkids, shoppers jumping in front of each other or not clearing the way for others. It was obvious, which prompted further conversation from my six-year-old about the real reason we celebrate Christmas and why it hurts to hear references to good behavior over bad.
It is easy to think of Jesus as an infant and celebrate His birth simply from the perspective that most folks love babies. Picturing the Nativity as a sweet scene to be celebrate with twinkle lights and perfectly wrapped presents under the tree is a relatively easy task. But that isn't it. It made me think to something I'd written sometime ago, so in an effort to further explain Shep's perspective and our conversation, I will share what I wrote because Christmas is so much about *why* Jesus came, not just that He came:
I’m sure most of you know the feeling. The feeling you get when you are driving and suddenly a police officer pulls behind you. You go from simple, lawful, good driving to feeling like you have a dead body and mounds of stolen goods in the trunk of your car. Your belly seizes up and all your nervous energy has you checking the rearview mirror every few seconds for fear of flashing lights and you’ve not done a darn thing wrong, yet you’re all twisted up inside because you’ve convinced yourself that despite what the speedometer says, that officer is going to find some reason to pull your sorry self over. No justice in being left alone, a decent driver without incident, you’re sweating bullets over the 10 mph you were driving over a mile back. Law makes us good people nervous. We don’t want to nearly break them and we don’t want to be perceived as breaking them, so we don’t mess around, although posted speed on a highway, well that’s just a suggestion huh?! ;) My point is that law keeps us safe. It helps us keep our positions, our attitudes, our wily-ness in check … we may not always agree with them but there is always a bigger picture to them that doesn’t revolve around our single self. They are necessary for peaceful community because man’s nature is a wretched one. And yet because of Christ’s mercy we don’t have to be checking our review mirror for His judgement. Our stomachs don’t have to turn in knots because we’ve messed up so much He’s going to cuff us and be done with us, no, He came to save us … even from ourselves. He didn’t come to say, “Sure, live however you want, without concern for others.” … He came because He knows us. He knows getting it right 100% of the time just isn’t in our capability and He wanted to offer grace to us, so that we may live free of fear. Law is important ... Jesus' life doesn’t unravel old testament thinking and ways, it connects it … a bridge for us to mercy through Him. ~
Just like no amount of "good" we do will have us appropriately earning our Christmas gifts, Christ came so that Law could be seen appropriately. In truth, if our receiving was based on our scoresheets of "done well", none of us deserves a thing. So I am thankful that despite my undeservedness I get to celebrate because Christ was born into this world so that we could all see Mercy incarnate. So that we could all quit looking in the rearview mirror for His judgement and instead look forward to His love instead. Friends, at Christmas, quit telling your kiddos or loved ones that you (or Santa) will withhold their gifts because of their underservedness, and instead emulate Christ. Tell them you are sharing the gift despite because we are all a mess, far far less then perfect and because genuine love, loves unconditionally and Mercy is the best gift one could ever offer! ~ B