Thursday, June 19, 2008

Santa, God, and Candy Cane Scented Scrolls

So, here I sit at my computer and I look at my trusty “Christmas Countdown” and it says 189 days until Christmas, which means I have been anxiously anticipating Christmas 2008 for about 175 days. For those that know me, you know this is nothing surprising, I LOVE CHRISTMAS. As a matter of fact, just the other day, walking Trooper, I was listening to my substantial Christmas play list on my MP3 player. Yeah, I know, pretty awesome, huh?

With all that said, I’m pretty much in a Christmas frame of mind year round and I can find Christmas almost anywhere. However, I can be surprised from time to time, when it pops up in the most unexpected ways. Take for instance my recent foray into a Christian bookstore. Note that I said RECENT, meaning not during the time when you would expect to be struck with visions of Santa Claus whilst out shopping. Yet, there he was. He was EVERYWHERE!
Now, don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t all decked out in red and fattened up in anticipation of an all night run around the world. No, he was subtle, sneaky; but when I realized what I was seeing, there was no turning back. I saw him everywhere. Kind of reminded me of those goofy pictures that were all the rage a few years back. You know the ones, where you had to stare cross-eyed at them until you felt like the left side and right side of your brain were about to suddenly switch sides, and out of no where a hidden picture came into view? And the more you looked at pictures like this, the easier it became to decipher their secrets until it got to the point where you didn’t even have to try, you just saw it. Yeah, Santa in the Christian bookstore was kind of like that. Once I figured it out, once my eyes adjusted and were trained to what I was truly seeing, I was ticked off. Why!? Because all this time I was duped! God, Jesus, Santa Claus are one and the same!

How on earth did I ever miss it? I mean I’ve already established my Christmas fanaticism, so if anyone was gonna get the memo, it was me. Beyond that, I consider myself a pretty astute individual. I pay attention to the world around me, I watch the news, I read the papers, surely I would’ve seen the headlines that hailed the finding of a candy cane scented papyrus scroll describing Jesus not as some skinny, emaciated, Jewish carpenter, but rather as some rotund, jolly fat man in a bright red suit.

Read the books in our Christian bookstores, look around our churches today, listen to the sermons being preached in the biggest, most “happening” churches, hear the words of fellow Christians, look at some of the petitions being presented at my denomination’s General Conference, and it really makes me wonder…How could I have missed it? How did I not know that all those times of sitting on Santa’s lap, I was in fact sitting on the lap of God? I mean, I knew Santa was omnipresent, he was at every shopping mall at once, after all. I also knew he was omniscient, because he always knew when I was being bad and when I was being good. Despite this fact, I always had everything I ever wanted under the tree. Wow, he really is a forgiving God, huh?

Of course I’m being slightly facetious, but it does highlight what I think is a serious problem facing our churches today. It seems a lot of Christians do not know God. A lot of Christians do not know the Word. A lot of Christians do not know the fire with which they play. You read the Bible and I mean really read the Bible, every word, every idea, even the ones you might like to ignore and gloss over because they make you uncomfortable, and you ask yourself, “Does that sound like Santa Claus?” How many instances can you show me where God is not serious in what He says? How may times can you point to where God views sins and living contrary to Him and His Word with a shrug of His shoulders, “Eh, that’s okay. You’ll get to it later. Don’t worry, we’re good.” How many times is His retribution soft, fuzzy, and otherwise pleasant? When did God ever promise that following Him was going to be easy? Where did God say He wants us to have every earthly thing we set our little hearts on? Where did God ever say we could not only live contrary to His word, but also preach contrary to it in our churches, simply because it made us uncomfortable? When did He ever promise us a stack of presents under a tree?

Yet, these are the ideas that are being spewed by so called “Christians” today. There is no hell…God does not punish…God’s word was never meant to be taken literally…God’s word cannot be understood…There are no absolute truths…If I pray hard enough God will bless me with prosperity…Hell is not a place, but an experience on Earth and in life…The devil does not exist…God’s greatest concern is my comfort and happiness…Praying for God’s will is a prayer of defeat…Jesus is A way, not the ONLY way to Heaven…

It goes on and on, but ultimately it is all about conforming God to us, rather than us conforming to God. I think about this and I really wonder why Jesus even had to come to Earth and I wonder why Jesus had to suffer the way that He did, when it really just didn’t matter…Why would He have to die for our sins if God just flat doesn’t care about them? Why would we have to believe in His resurrection for our own salvation, if it didn’t matter or possibly didn’t happen according to some? Seems an awful lot of trouble if we’re getting into Heaven regardless.

I just really have to wonder what God thinks when he looks down at us. Is He angry? Is He hurt? Or does he just not give a damn like some would have us believe? When I think about this, I cannot help but to think of myself as a father and my own son. What if my son were killed to save someone’s life? What if that someone while acknowledging my son’s sacrifice continued to live their life in a way that belittled my son’s sacrifice? As a father, besides being angry, I would be heartbroken. Was my son’s sacrifice not enough? Was the gift of a second chance not worthy of your loyalty and your heart? Sure they may profess their love, admiration, and thanks with their lips. But what about their hearts and their actions? Do you think as a father who lost a son to save someone’s life that I wouldn’t be able to see your sincerity or lack thereof? I am merely a mortal and I can assure you, I would see right through it. And to make matters worse, the thought that they would continue to come to me in my son’s name, asking more of me? Wow. Yet we do this to God.

Replace me with God and replace my son with Christ upon the cross. Think about what Christ, what God went through on that cross. For what? So that we could live our lives however we please, all the while proclaiming our allegiance to the one on the cross? Is this pleasing to God? Do we truly not understand what happened that day? That God Himself was nailed to a cross because of our shortcomings, because of our sin? Because we were living our lives how WE wanted, not how GOD wanted?

I don’t know much, but when I think about it that way, I think we as Christians really need to take a good strong inventory of ourselves and our beliefs. We need to start examining those parts of the Word that make us squirm and make us uncomfortable. There is a reason for those feelings, embrace them, search them, address them, and know that God demands far more than lip service and empty, timid hearts. We as Christians need to realize that milk and cookies left out one night a year isn’t going to cut it. We as Christians need to realize that while Santa Claus is one very cool dude, he has nothing on Jesus. We’d also probably do well to remember that Santa’s naughty and nice list is probably far different than God’s.

Cantankerously Yours,
The Cantankerous Christian