His Wisdom for Her World

What’s “Naughty or Nice” Got to Do With It?

By on December 3, 2013 in Holiday with 3 Comments
Christmas Present

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” (Eph 2:8)

I love this time of year! Love everything about it! If you read my last post, you will understand that my feelings toward the Christmas season are the exact opposite from my thoughts of that last day of October. I love the music, the smells, even the craziness of all the parties. Being a mommy at Christmas time is like being a tour guide at some magnificent destination. I get the privilege of guiding them to experience all the wonderful sights, sounds, smells, and activities of the season. Sometimes we focus on a favorite tradition my husband or I had growing up or sometimes we create our own new traditions. I enjoy the millions of questions that surface in the awestruck mind of a child. However, I have noticed a question arising more and more in the last few years, not necessarily with my own children, but with our culture as a whole. It has nothing to do with “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” It is the question of “Have you been good this year?”

Oh, I know. It’s just a saying. We’ve all said it without any real meaning behind it. However, through the marketing and merchandise around us, I believe this idea is creeping into our hearts and minds more and more.  Many of you know of a little elf that you can pretend watches your kids to make sure they are being good. Even in the Christian circles, merchandise has been created to encourage our kids to be good this time of year. If not, they will find switches and ashes in their stocking. Of course, many dismiss it as part of the make-believe game we play with our children at Christmas.

However, I would argue it is more dangerous than that. The danger comes from the fact that it preaches a different gospel. In the New Testament, Paul marveled that the church in Galatia was “turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6). Even then, the people of Galatia were turning away from a gospel of grace to a different gospel of works. The Gospel of Christmas is that God loved us so much, He sent his only Son and all we have to do is believe in Him and He will grant us eternal life (John 3:16). Ephesians says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8) The gift of Christ is a gift not based on our works. There is no naughty or nice list in Heaven where, if we have more checks on the nice side, we get the gift. The gift of Christ is given to us simply because God loves us and desires a relationship with us for His glory.

In light of this, I want to challenge myself to remove this false gospel from my vocabulary and most of all from my heart. How do I approach giving gifts this Christmas? Do I do it out of obligation? I truly desire my attitude of gift giving to be one that reflects the same attitude of God. I want to give out of an overflow of the incredible gift that God has already given to me. Most importantly, I want to love this Christmas in an unconditional way, expecting nothing in return, but pointing the object of my love back to my Savior who loved me so. What if my 4-year-old throws a fit that goes 10.0 on the Richter scale because he didn’t get the right color cup on Christmas morning? Am I going to be just as joyful about giving him gifts as I would be if he had been an angel? What about that family member who rubs you the wrong way? Will you buy her a present out of obligation or will you see it as a way to minister to her and show her the unconditional love that comes only from Christ? This Christmas, may we give our loved ones gifts not because they were nice to us, but because the greatest Gift-giver loved us so to give us Jesus.

As we talk with our children, let us make it absolutely clear that receiving gifts has nothing to do with their works, but has everything to do with celebrating the greatest Gift of all. None of us deserve the Gift of Christmas, “but God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,” (Ephesians 2:4) gave us the most wonderful gift of all.

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About the Author

About the Author: Melanie Lenow loves the Lord with all her heart and desires to glorify Him with the ministry to which he has called her (Col 4:17). That ministry includes being a wife to her husband, Dr. Evan Lenow, who teaches ethics at Southwestern Seminary, and raising and nurturing her four beautiful children. In her local church, she loves serving the ladies as leader of their women’s ministry, One Heart. .

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  1. Lisa Wiesman says:

    Melanie this came at the right time! Nicole was just saying yesterday that she didn”t think she was going to get any presents because she thought she was on the naughty list! I have no idea where she got it from. I think it came from our neighbors who participate in the Elf game. Kids keep asking why we don”t have one. Well I have a good answer for them now! Thanks for the post it is very encouraging.

  2. Patsy Scheiderer says:

    “Have you been good this year for Santa?” This is what my children are asked when we go to stores. My children look at me with this puzzled look on their faces. Seeing as we teach our children that they are to obey us and by doing that, they glorify God and obey him as well. So that left us with explaining who Santa is, and we told them about St. Nick. Reminding our kids that it is all about Jesus. In that conversation they brought up having a birthday cake for Jesus. All in all it turned out well.
    I enjoyed reading this article and shared it with my husband. Thank you this encouraging note.

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