The countdown begins as we draw closer to Christmas day. Many are waiting with expectation to unwrap their gifts and see what's inside. Both adult and child alike are gripped with excitement. But what are we really waiting for? We begin to educate our children early on that the giver of good gifts at Christmas is Santa Claus. We tell children that Santa, the "gift giver" is watching them throughout the year. In particular he is focused on their behavior. Were they naughty or nice? We even have a song to sing, "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town." The title of the song anticipates the "advent" of Santa's coming. The one who when he comes will bring us joy with the fulfillment of our wants and desires. However, at some point in our lives the Santa illusion is shattered. We realize, the real gift giver is our parents or other relatives who place the gifts under the tree. We come to depend on other human beings to make our holidays bright or miserable if we don't receive what we have asked for on our Christmas list. Moreover, our "gift givers" can become easily stressed out when they don't have the capacity to purchase gifts. Some are even willing to fight openly in the stores for a particularly popular toy/gift. While others will bypass the rules of morality and the law altogether to steal their gifts. However, at the end of the day the gifts we receive are temporal and perishable. Furthermore, our interest tends to wane over time until the next new toy or the next big thing comes along. In contrast, there are those who enter into the Advent season waiting for the true gift given by the real Gift giver. Jesus is the greatest gift ever given to humanity. Unlike Santa Claus, Jesus coming was not based on whether we are naughty or nice but on God's love, mercy, and grace. We therefore don't have to be afraid of His coming because Jesus brings a gift that is far greater than anything we can receive here on earth. Jesus brings us eternal life through His death and resurrection. Moreover, Jesus gift to us doesn't change as we get older so we don't have to become disillusioned. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) Sadly, many people see Jesus as a heavenly Santa Claus. They want Him to fulfill their selfish wants and desires. When God fails to deliver the goods on their wish list, they can become bitter and angry. However, God is sovereign over all of creation. The Psalmist declares, "The earth is the Lord's and everything in it, the world and all who live in it; for He founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters." (Psalm 24:1-2) God's gifts to us flow from grace, not from greed. His gifts are based in love, not longing after material things. His gifts are based on mercy, not merit. We cannot deny that each of us has our own personal struggles and the world appears to be on a downward spiral. However, Jesus told us this would be our reality. (John 16:33) But God in Christ has done something Santa Claus will never do. Jesus has overcome the world and conquered sin and death! (1 Corinthians 15:54b-57; Revelation 11:15,17) Moreover, God is in the process of making all things new. (Revelation 21:5) I don't know what your circumstances are but as Christmas approaches each of us needs to ask the question, "What gift do we want for Christmas and who are we waiting for to deliver it?" Do we want Santa who can only satisfy our temporal, material needs once a year? Or do we want a Savior whose promises are trustworthy and true and whose gift is eternal? My prayer this Christmas is that you will choose the greatest gift ever given----choose Jesus!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!