Santa Claus is a nice enough idea. A white-bearded, old man comes from the sky to reward good, little children but withholds his gifts from the naughty ones. This is also how most people envision God. Like Santa, they believe God is a white-bearded, old man who rewards good children and punishes the naughty ones. But, Jesus isn't Santa Claus, not even close.
But, does it even matter? Yes, it does, for many reasons. First, Jesus doesn't make a list. He doesn't check it twice. He doesn't keep track of who's naughty or nice. Jesus is God's sign that He's done with His list-keeping ways. No more bookkeeping. No more receipts. No more audits. In Christ, God has once and for all taken care of any talk about our paying off or paying down our sin-inflicted debts.
Second, Jesus isn't distant. He’s our ever-present God. He’s Immanuel. Jesus is the God who's with us. He locates Himself everywhere the Good News is preached to troubled sinners. He locates Himself everywhere the Spirit's gifts are given away in simple earthly words, water, bread, and wine. He's been here, in the world, wherever His Spirit works, the whole time.
Third, there's no reason to dread Jesus' coming. His coming is a reason for abundant and outrageous joy. God's Word in the flesh is one of the most beautiful truths of the Bible. God has been born a man to rescue us from what troubles, attacks, and defeats us: sin, death, and hell.
Naughty little boys and girls have a good reason to fear Santa Claus. If Santa’s making a list, then we'd better be afraid of not making the cut. He may put us in the naughty column and then no gifts for us.
If we imagine Jesus’ arrival mirrors Santa’s coming, then we are right to be afraid of Jesus.
If we imagine Jesus' arrival mirrors Santa's coming, then we are right to be afraid of Jesus. If He's anything like Santa, when Jesus arrives, He'll show up with a list of all our shortcomings, wrongdoings, and worst case scenarios. But, Jesus isn't Santa. Jesus' coming is the answer to all our worst case scenarios. God's Immanuel doesn’t come to destroy, condemn, or judge. God's Immanuel is born to rescue us from our selfish need to destroy ourselves and judge and battle against other people.
As John 3:17 says: “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” This means God isn't Santa. Jesus isn't Santa. And thank God He's not!
Jesus doesn't come with a list to check. There's no test for Him to grade. Jesus comes to take what troubles, attacks, and defeats us and nail it to His cross (Col. 2:14).
Immanuel is born to rescue all of us weak-hearted, cowardly, self-deceiving children of this world. He comes to set us free in the liberation of His death.
Jesus comes, born to save. He doesn't come to rescue an exclusive club of good little children with enough money in their religious piggy banks. We can't pay off or pay down our sin-inflicted debts, and we can't buy our way into God's good graces. Immanuel is born to rescue all of us weak-hearted, cowardly, self-deceiving children of this world. He comes to set us free in the liberation of His death. He turns our mourning into joy, our diseases into comfort, and our sorrows into gladness today and forever.