Monday, 19 December 2011

Which Gospel Will Shape Your Christmas?

You know it's December when the TV shedules are once again brimming with Christmas movies. Recently I watched the film Elf. The climax of the movie sees some of the main characters 'spreading Christmas cheer by singing loud for all to hear' outside Central Park in New York. The song they choose let rip with their vocal chords on is Santa Claus is Coming to Town. It is at this point that the uplifting music begins to swell and the audience is left with that warm joyful Christmas feeling.

Yet, as I think about it, I can't help but be reminded that the message of Santa Claus is Coming to Town does not leave us with Christmas cheer. In fact if we take the message of the song seriously we are only left with despair.

Now before I'm berated for being a scrooge, let me explain. The gospel according to Santa Claus is not good news. The message of Santa Claus is essentially this: if you are good you shall be rewarded, if you are not you won't, you will be punished. Therefore, what you need to do is to work hard at being good to recieve your reward, it is all up to you.The gifts that he gives need to be earned. The problem is that we are incapable of being "good for goodness sake!", which means that all we're left with is the prospect of punishment. This is not a message that spreads Christmas cheer.

However, there is a huge contrast with the gospel of Jesus. The biblical gospel gives great hope to those who know that they can never be good enough. The God of the Bible is one who justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5). That is, He declares sinful men and women, who have fallen short of His glory and deserve His punishment, to be in right standing before Him. In the words of Santa Claus is Coming to Town, He declares those who are naughty to be nice. He no longer counts their sins against them (Romans 4:7-8), and thus they can look forward to a future, not of punishment, but of enjoying the glorious blessing of being in His prescence for all eternity in a completely renewed world. This is good news!

The question is: Which gospel will shape our Christmas this year? The two are very different, and will produce very different people.

Now, this post may sound quite familiar. That's probably because it's a summary of one I posted this time last year entitled The Santichrist. You can read the fuller version by clicking here.