“He’s making a list/he’s checking it twice/gonna find out who’s naughty or nice/Santa Claus is coming to town.”
“So,” Santa asked, “what do you want for Christmas?” I listed all the toys I’d been circling in the Sears catalog. “Well, have you been a good boy this year?”
How do you answer that when you’re 6 years old? I knew the answer wasn't always yes. I’d disobeyed my folks, I’d made my little sister’s life miserable as much as I could…a whole year is an awfully long time to be good. But if I told the truth, I knew I wouldn't get any presents. So I lied to Santa about how good I’d been.
To my 6-year-old mind, that’s what Santa was about – be good if you want good things. How easy is it to think that God works the same way? If you live right, you get God’s blessings. If you don’t, then watch out.
But the two names given in the Christmas narrative tell another story. In Matthew 1:23, we find His name is Emmanuel, God With Us. It’s not Us With God, but God With Us. He takes the initiative – He comes to us. In verse 21 we find His name is Jesus, “because He will save His people from their sins.”
These names tell me that the work is His, not mine. He comes, He saves. Not once in these verses does it ask if I've been good. Instead, it assumes I haven’t, which is why He has to come in the first place.
This Christmas, I’m thankful for a God who steps into my messy world, and does for me what I cannot do for myself. No, Jesus, I can’t say I've been good. But I’m so thankful that You are.