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Naughty or Nice?

Naughty or Nice?

“He knows when you’ve been sleeping. 
He knows when you’re awake. 
He knows if you’ve been bad or good, 
so be good, for goodness’ sake.”
(lyrics to "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town," copyright expired)

That sounds a little scary, doesn’t it? You’d better watch out! Christmas is coming, and it sounds like someone is watching you.

For generations, parents have cautioned children with these words. Better behave, or Santa might stick coal in your stocking when he creeps into the house while the family sleeps.

Is this fantasy fun or frightening?

As a parent, I confess I have helped to perpetuate this play at Christmas.

I’ve even left red flannel scraps on the fireplace grate to show my kids how Santa must have torn his britches on the way up the chimney. (Here's the story in rhyme: Just Be-Claus - a Rhyming Trick on Old St. Nick .)

I have jingled carriage bells up and down the stairs on Christmas Eve, just in case the children are still awake.

Christmas is delightful for so many reasons.

Of course, the primary focus is the Babe in the manger, born to die to save the world from sin. On bended knee, we sing beloved carols to worship the Light of the Word, born into a frail human body in Bethlehem under the brightest star.

Santa Claus, commemorating a generous old country saint, reminds us all of the joy of giving.

Does the promise of presents lead to improved conduct?

I have to wonder. Can anyone really be bribed into better behavior or scared into submission? Does the fear of possibly losing a prize (or a Christmas stocking bulging with bounty) actually serve as an incentive for children of any age to obey parents?

On a grander scale, does the offer of eternal reward incite us to follow God more closely? Can we become more devoted to the Divine One, simply by focusing on a payoff someday in Heaven (see Revelation 22:12)?

Maybe that’s not what it’s all about.

Again, we make it all about ourselves, if we focus on rewards or what we may receive.

I have often wondered about this. Sure, folks love to talk about heavenly paybacks, as if God owed us something for serving Him or for putting up with difficulties in this life.

A woman I know has lived with a particularly surly husband for more than six decades. He grumbles and growls over nearly everything, and she quietly bears most of this personally.

She has been nice, even when he has been naughty.

“That saintly woman will have dozens of jewels in her crown in Heaven someday,” folks will say about this lady. 

Perhaps she will. Bully for her, if God does honor her that way for her longsuffering with surly spouse.

The Bible does say believers will be honored in eternity for faithfulness now. It also says none of us even deserve entry to everlasting life.

“All have sinned 
and fall short of the glory of God.”
(Revelation 3:23, NIV)

So we’re all naughty. If the Lord played by Santa’s standards, we’d all get coal in our stockings, if we got stockings at all.

But God can make us nice. Because of the Christmas Child, who grew up to pay our penalty on Calvary’s cross, the Father regards us as redeemed and welcomes us home to be with Him.

What’s more, when we arrive in eternity, instead of recounting our missteps, He blesses us for what few moments of obedience we may have enjoyed. He rewards our faithfulness.

But you know what I think will happen in Heaven?

I don’t know about you, but I am guessing that I will likely fall face-down at the first glimpse of the Holy One. Rewards won’t matter much, in the light of His full revealed glory.

Even the holiest ones will prostrate themselves before the King of Kings and lay their crowns at His feet to praise Him.

“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
   to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
   and by your will they were created
   and have their being.”
(Revelation 4:11, NIV)

Hallelujah to the Holy One, who transforms naughty to nice, remorse to redemption, disobedience to delight, and pain to promise.

Related Items:
“Naughty” Stocking – Fair Use Photo
Heavenly Crowns – public domain photo

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1 comment:

  1. Wow. Another example of your genius in personal positive apologetics.