Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Icons of the Season

The NORAD radar screen is up right now in it's own window as I type. We're watching Santa as he's flying around the world (in Saudi Arabia currently) with those eight little reindeer, and Rudolph of course!

We love Santa. And why not? He's a jolly ol' elf, full of cheer and goodwill (something in short supply in the shopping centers especially today) and he has gifts for all the good little boys and girls.

He's a symbol of generosity and justice. He has those lists and he's checking them twice...and yes, I confess, as a parent having used the famous reasoning of "you better be good because Santa is watching."

He does amazing things; all those toys, that round the world trip, the improbable gifts that miraculously appear under the tree. It's wonderful! And the holiday movies like Miracle on 34th St. and the Santa Claus movie push the probability quotient a bit further towards "well...?".

The Nativity scene. A young Mary and older Joseph tenderly caring for her. The new baby with the glow above him. Adoring shepherds, pristine sheep, heavenly angels and a night sky full of brightness and wonder.

In five months we'll have a new icon before us - the lily festooned cross as symbol and celebration of the resurrection. The babe, grown up, crucified and resurrected and ascended back to heaven where He then becomes to us, Santa...?

A good God, a just God, a watching God waiting to see if we're good or if we are bad. If we are bad he punishes and if we are good he blesses us. We make our lists in forms of prayers filled with requests and hope that in the passing weeks by going to church and loving our fellow man that we've been good enough to earn His favorable answers. And we perpetuate this myth on our children, and in our churches to each other: God is the great man upstairs (like a heavenly North Pole) and He is watching and He has the ability to do amazing things if we're good....

Sounds sacrilegious doesn't it?
Sadly, it's more true than we want to recognize.

Why do you open your Bible, be nice to those you meet, attend church, contribute to charity, abstain from temptation and try to live a good life?
Is it an attempt to be more good than bad?
To be more nice than naughty?
And if not for your salvation do you consider this the route to your sanctification?
People have been attending churches all their lives, and are quick to tell you so when you inquire about their relationship with God. "I've been a member here for 40 years and have taught Sunday school and...and.... and...."

Santa - He's a tool, a symbol, a legend.
God - is not.

God is.

He said so about himself in Exodus "I AM".
Not merely some cultural icon but a Deity that desires this personal intimate relationship with us. Not the grandfather upstairs with some kind of list, or the dictator intent on running your life and ruining your happiness or the insane powerful being that must be appeased by sacrifice, but God our Father, God the creator, God the One who loved us so much that He sent His Son as this baby in the manager so that we'd enjoy an intimate relationship with Him every single day of our lives.

Enjoy Santa (he's in Finland now) but don't mistake God to be as trivial as this jolly ole' elf. He offers you a gift far greater than a seasonal symbol of generosity and justice. Take advantage of His amazing gift that was given in the baby in the manger, the ability to enjoy a growing genuine relationship with Him, the everlasting and Almighty God.

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