Saturday, December 17, 2011

Jesus. Santa. Karma. Grace.

**Disclaimer...this is not intended to judge or offend anyone who loves Santa or those who choose to have Santa visit.  Just my perspective, just my experience.  No hating, please.**

We don't do Santa at our house.

Often when I tell people this, I see them trying to stifle how sorry they feel for my kids or they nod with a knowing look--oh, that's right, you're religious--or say something like "Jesus is the reason for the season, right?"

Well, yes, but mostly no.

Christmas "supposed to be" being about Jesus really has nothing to do with why we don't play Santa with our kids.  For me, I didn't grow up with Santa (actually, for the afore mentioned reasons, but I digress...) so it just isn't a part of my Christmas tradition.  My husband did grow up with Santa--the whole deal: cookies on a plate, tons of packages, listening for reindeer hooves.  He wondered why this Santa guy got him all these presents when his mom and dad, who actually knew and loved him, barely got him anything.

We don't do Santa primarily because we try not to lie to our kids about anything--Santa, how babies come out of their mom's bellies, the actual existence of unicorns when pressed on the subject.  Sometimes telling the truth requires a lot of energy, but it is something we're committed to.  No exception for Santa.  (My husband also feels like he doesn't want our kids to think its ever ok for a strange man to come into our house at night, even if all he's doing is eating our cookies and leaving us presents).  So, our family doesn't do Santa and we're ok with that.

Last week, my four-year-old daughter had a play date with a little neighborhood friend.  We were all doing art together when this little girl started to tell me about Santa--how he knows if you've been good or bad, that if you're bad you get nothing, how she has an elf in her house who reports what he sees back to Santa, and I started thinking "this Santa guy sounds awful!"  See, because it isn't our tradition, I'd forgotten all about the good/bad, naughty/nice part.

The conversation with this little girl really got me thinking, though.  This Advent season I've been reflecting on the idea of Christ's light and His gift of grace to the world.  I started to think about Jesus and how His gift comes to me when I haven't been good at all--not by Santa's standards, not society's, not my own.  I receive His light in the midst of my brokenness and inadequacies, not because I've overcome them or been on my best behavior in December.  I found myself so grateful to be living by Jesus' standards--that if you want the gifts of mercy and hope and joy in Him--you get it, rather than Santa's judgments of good or bad.

As crazy as this might sound, it got me thinking that Santa is to karma as Jesus is to grace.  See with Santa, your behavior really matters.  What you put out is what you get back.  If you're good and extend good into the universe, you'll get good back.  But what's good enough?  Enough good?  Where does Karma Santa draw the line?  Because as the song tells us, Santa even "knows what you are thinking!"  Can our thoughts, let alone our actions, land us on the naughty list?

Grace on the other hand, is getting what you don't deserve.  Jesus knows what you've done, what you've said, what you've thought, and He extends His gift of Love to you anyway.  And it doesn't matter how good you can't gain you any more of His already complete and perfect Love.

So many people bristle at the idea of being a Christian, feeling that it involves following a bunch of rules and behavioral regulations.  I'd like to say that, actually, I think it is karma that prescribes a strict, confining code of conduct--if you're naughty, no gifts for you!

Jesus, on the other hand, requires simply that you want HIM.  No naughty or nice, no spying elves, just you and Jesus where He offers you His gift of love and grace, asking only for all your junk in return.  Rather than a list of rules, life with Jesus means freedom!

But here's the thing: when you've experienced the life-altering gift of grace that Jesus gives, your behavior will begin to change.  As you allow His light to penetrate the dark parts of your heart, you will grow.  His Spirit will begin to develop in you, you will find that kindness, patience, joy, gratitude, peace and love will become a greater part of who you are.  But it isn't because you are getting an external code of conduct imposed on you.  Its because you're connected to heart of the One who is Good.  And when you screw up, there's no coal, only more grace and love and a reminder of whose you are.

So this Christmas I find myself so grateful to be celebrating a gift of Love, one that doesn't come with strings attached or one that is pro-rated between my good and bad deeds.  I'm saying "no!" to Karma Santa and "yes!" to the grace of Jesus, the Light of the World.