The gospel according to Nicholas (my grandson):
At this time of the year I find it easy to blend Christmas folklore with the truth of the incarnation and come up with a messed up understanding of what Christmas is really all about. Recently, I passed a house that went overboard on its Christmas décor. The lawn was packed with blown up versions of Santa, Frosty, Rudolf, elves, and in the middle of all this a nativity scene. It all blends together to make for a confusing holiday stew. It is easy to get pulled into the middle of all this and I was recently confronted with my own confusion.
I have a 6 year-old grandson named Nicholas who is intelligent and strong-willed. He and his younger brother, Rainier, recently stayed with us for a few days while their parents were out of town. One evening I watched Nicholas slug his younger brother when he got too close to the game Nicky was playing. “Nicholas, that was naughty!”, I shouted, hoping for some remorse. Nicholas replied in a very matter of fact tone,“I know grandpa, I was born naughty.” “That’s not true,” I responded.“No it is true, you can ask my Mom,” he shot back.“I can prove to you that its not true,” I reasoned. “Did you get any Christmas presents last year?” “Well yes,” he admitted.” “Well don’t only nice boys get Christmas presents?” Cased closed I thought. Nicholas pondered this for a moment and then responded, “Grandpa, I am nice around Christmas.”
As I reflected back on our conversation I realized I reinforced some bad theology. Nicholas was right, we are all born naughty. God gave us the greatest gift he could give, His only Son, in spite of our naughtiness, not because we act nice. 1 John 4:9 says,“this is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only son into the world that we might live through him. This is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
There is nothing wrong with a little less naughtiness and a lot more niceness around Christmas, but let’s make sure we don’t confuse traditional Christmas folklore with the grace and love of Jesus Christ whose birth we celebrate.