There is this scene in A Christmas Story where Ralphie and his brother were visiting Santa at a department store. The Santa is a terrible Santa. He seems to enjoy terrifying the children, is ready to get off the clock, and doesn’t care about spreading any joy. For him, being Santa is just another paycheck.
Ralphie is excited to tell Santa that he wants an official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot range model air rifle. He gets nervous, stumbles, and agrees to a football being the gift he wants. But that just isn’t the case, so Ralphie climbs back up the slide to tell Santa what he really wants. Santa replies, “You’ll shoot your eye out kid. Merry Christmas. Hoooo. Hoooo. Hoooo.”
Have you ever been disappointed? Have you ever looked forward to a certain item or trip only for it to be less than you expected? Have you ever been so excited to meet someone and then they just turned out to be a jerk? I would love to hear your story.
Unfortunately, Christians have often been more of a disappointment to the world rather than the blessing they were called to be. Many people hate Christians, and rightfully so. Not because of the message we share but because of the non-Christlike life we live. We have often behaved in ways that aren’t the most loving. And I’m not innocent of being an embarrassment to Jesus at times. We might be too judgmental of others. We may talk about how people that don’t believe in our pet doctrine are going to hell. But the biggest, and a source of the two previous symptoms, problem is that we don’t really love people.
This is sad because John wrote, “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:19-21 ESV).
So the scary news is this. If you aren’t a loving person, then you aren’t right with God. Oh, you could claim that you are. You could know all the right religious things to say. You could go to church every week. You could even read your Bible and pray every day, but for some reason you aren’t growing. It’s like the Santa Claus in A Christmas Story. He had the costume, but he wasn’t spreading any joy.
Jesus came into this world, as we remember every year at Christmas time, to help renew us from our fallen state into the image of God (Colossians 3:10). It is the greatest gift God could give us. And because of His great, immeasurable love for us, we should respond by passing that love along to others. Christmas is the season of giving, but it shouldn’t just stop there. As Christians, every season should be just that. We are to make a difference in our homes, workplaces, and communities.