Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Naughty or Nice?

One of the traditions of Christmas most children enjoy is writing to Santa. With pen in hand, they write the biggest letter of the year, hoping Santa will bring that one gift, making everything right in the universe. Special care is taken to tell Santa what good little boys or girls they've been, so it shouldn't be hard for Santa to reward them. Secretly hoping he doesn't discover that they had fudged a little on the “good” part.

I remember my brothers, sister and I would have a secret meeting to discuss what we would ask Santa for. Several weeks before Christmas, we'd sit at the kitchen table writing our letters. Beginning with the things we wanted most, then in descending order, telling Santa all the things we'd like. Socks and underwear were not part of our lists.

When we received socks and underwear, it was a sure sign of the dreaded “naughty” list. Growing up in a family of limited means, we still hoped for that one special gift from Santa that we knew our parents couldn't provide. Sometimes, to our surprise it would come and we'd think we made the “nice” list.

That is the world we grew up in, being taught rewards for good behavior while less than good, received scorn. This is known as “conditional” acceptance. We learned that anything less than good behavior, was unworthy of benefits.

Because many relationships are based in condition, we believe that the Lord's acceptance of us is also based on our good behavior. We don't want to end up on the naughty list on Judgment Day, being sent to Hell, while those on the nice list go to Heaven.

Our acceptance by God is not based on our performance, but based on his love. Before sin ever came into the picture, God loved us and chose us to be his special creation. Even after sin separated us from him, he declared he would redeem us.

“The Lord said, “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself” (Jeremiah 31:3 NLT)

“He will listen to the prayers of the destitute; He will not reject their pleas. Let this be recorded for future generations, so that a nation yet to be created will praise the Lord. Tell them the Lord looked down from his heavenly sanctuary. He looked to the earth from heaven to hear the groans of the prisoners, to release those condemned to die.” (Psalms 102:17-20 NLT)

“The Lord is merciful and gracious; he is slow to get angry and full of unfailing love”
“He has not punished us for all our sins, nor does he deal with us the way we deserve”
“He has removed our rebellious acts, as far away as the east is from the west”
(Psalms 103: 8; 10; 12 NLT)

The “naughty” list was nailed to the cross and all record of wrongs have been destroyed. (Romans 5:9-10). We have been given the special gift that made everything right in the universe, Jesus Christ!

“Therefore, since we have been made right in God's sight by faith, we have peace with God, because of what Jesus Christ our Lord, has done for us” (Romans 5:1 NLT)

Let this be a season of Joy!!

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