This is part 4 (the final part) in my Christmas series. See the first three parts also: Peace on Earth, Christmas is Love, and Are We Happy Yet?.
Just to let you guys know, this is my last post of the year before I take a little break. I’m planning on coming back January 5th after a recharge and refresh, and sharing some new surprises with you all. Feel free to peruse the tag list to find posts on certain topics, or go and leave comments on any post you’d like, because I’ll still get notifications and will be responding.
Onto the post ahead!
Ah, we’ve come down to the inevitable. A Christmas-y term that most of us have heard a thousand times. Good will toward men. And, before you ask, no, I’m not talking about the thrift store. (Though Goodwill is pretty cool.)
A few weeks ago, I was in a conversation discussing the true meaning of Christmas and what attributes we associate with it. We went through the general “peace, love, joy, happiness, kindness, goodness, giving, good will toward men” list. And I started thinking, “What really is ‘good will?’”
So many people put an emphasis on goodness at Christmas. For crying out loud, don’t disappoint the Elf on the Shelf (and therefore forfeit your gifts by being naughty), make sure to be respectful to your parents while the relatives are around, and by all means be civil and nice, and open the door for the lady with a hundred overfull Christmas packages.
Because being good is…good? I think?
Nobody says this of course, but being good brings us good things too, and who wants to pass them up?
At the heart of Christmas, we need to see our motives. Why exactly are we emphasizing goodness now?
For children, I can attest that in the average home, they are well-behaved for the gifts. With the threat of getting coal in their stockings (and what about those kids with gas or electric fireplaces?), everyone will be good. “We should be kind around ‘the holidays,’” they all say.
My question still stands. WHY?
By teaching kids from a young age that good behavior gets good rewards, we do not instill the value of true goodness. We teach good ol’ bribery.
If you obey, you get good things. OBEY, YOU HEAR ME?
The problem with this mindset is that God does not operate on Santa’s terms. And to instill into human beings the need to be good in order to earn rewards, we completely contradict the whole message of Christmas.
Here is the Santa Christmas message.
Be naughty. >> Be threatened into being nice. >> Be nice in order to secure your rewards. >> Receive rewards.
The whole Santa story revolves around insecurity propelling us toward goodness, not grace propelling us.
Let me elaborate a little more.
The message we were introduced to at Christmas is the message of grace.
To borrow Christmas terms, this is how our lives work according to the Gospel of grace.
Be naughty. >> Be offered grace and forgiveness from God. >> Receive that grace. >> Live a life in light of that grace. Be good – a good that stems from understanding what that grace is.
There is no reward system to earn salvation, grace, or forgiveness. It’s free. And that’s what divides Santa from Jesus.
That’s what divides between being good to earn something, and being good because you know you could NEVER earn something that was freely given you.
Goodness is good at Christmastime. Honestly, I think it is absolutely pleasant and wonderful when people pay attention to how they’re acting and make an effort to help others. It makes the world a sweeter place to be in, when everything crazy is going on around us.
But the question we should all ask ourselves when we are stressing “Good will toward men!” should be this: “Why good will? Why kindness? Why all this?”
Grace is what brought us to the place we are at. Grace is the meaning of Christmas. Grace is love and forgiveness to us at the darkest and most sinful point of our being.
We are to live and love propelled by grace, for without the grace of God, we would not be in the place we are at.
Salvation is not earned. Salvation is given to us and then received.
Let us fix our eyes on this truth as we approach Christmas. Good will toward men because we are loved, forgiven, and made new.
Thank you all so much for your readership this year, it means so much to me. Have a wonderful Christmas, and I’ll see you next year!