Santa 4The lights are up. The halls are decked. Starbucks’ Peppermint Mocha is back. And last week I ate fudge for dinner. Twice. Must be time to ask, yet again … Have you been good this year?

I wouldn’t go betting the mortgage or anything, but odds are, I made the Nice List. I mean, basically I’m a good person. I think. Most of the time.

I always put my shopping cart back where it belongs when I’m done loading the car. That’s nice. Unless of course I’m in a hurry, then I leave it wherever I want. Hmm. Slightly naughty.

I slow down to let people into my lane on the freeway. Definitely nice. Except for when I’m PMSing. Then I speed up and imagine running them off the road. Hmm. Naughty.

I hold doors open for people. I give to needy causes. I throw away my own trash at the movies. Nice, nice, nice. Unless I forget or I’m tired or I just don’t feel like it. Darn. Naughty again.

I say sorry to my husband. So nice. I don’t always mean it. Naughty.

I’m patient, kind, humble and forgiving. Whoa. Nailed the nice. Except for when I’m none of those things. Back to the Naughty List.

Sorry, Santa, but your lists confuse me. Not just during the holidays, but pretty much year round. Here’s why…

The Nice List says I should get toys and presents and everything I want Santa 11out of life (AKA answered prayers). I should get health and happiness for myself and everyone I love. My heart’s desires. My dreams and wishes. I’ve been good for You, Lord, haven’t I? But wait. It doesn’t work that way. Sometimes, for whatever divine, mysterious, magnificent, baffling reason, God with supreme insight, allows some prayers to go unanswered. Or tells me to wait. Or states simply, No. On any given day whether I’m nice, naughty or somewhere in between, God is sovereign. His will, His reasons, His ways are worthy of my trust.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways. (Isaiah 55:9)

The Naughty List says if I’ve been bad, I have to pay for it. When I fall short, when I fail or falter, I should get coal in my stocking (AKA consequences for my behavior). When I disappoint the Lord, He must be mad at me. Ready, willing and more than able to send bad things my way, lighting bolts and all. But wait. It doesn’t work that way. Knowing Jesus means I don’t have to pay because He already did. Some of my greatest blessings have come after I’ve failed the Lord miserably. How often in life have I deserved a deluge of discipline, and instead been flooded by the gift of grace? The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. (Psalm 103:8)

Santa 6The Nice List says I can do it on my own. Believing I can get on the Good List makes life pretty much all about me. I must have the power to win God’s approval. If I just work hard enough, struggle long enough, strive constantly enough, I can ultimately be good enough. But how good is good enough? And exactly how long do I have to keep all this goodness up? The truth is that anything truly good in the world, all of the gifts and blessings, have nothing to do with me and who I am, and everything to do with Him and who He is. For it is by grace you have been save, through faith- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

The Naughty list says I should just give up. Since I’ve shot for the stars, given it my all, tried my best and just can’t seem to hang on the Nice List, I must be a flop, a total failure. May as well just forget it. How could a perfect God want anything to do with me? I dismiss the fact that when I’ve blown it the worst, God longs for me the most. Believing in the Naughty List makes me forget His kindness, makes he disregard His mercy. Those second and third (and millionth) chances come every morning in the form of a rising sun. It’s the ultimate reset button in life and it’s ours every day. How amazing is that? Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

So nothing against you, Santa. Just your Lists.

There is a list that matters though; Santa10it’s a list that I could never be good enough to get on and never bad enough to get kicked off (Revelation 3:5, 20:12). All it takes is a simple faith in the One who came to this world as a baby and died on a cross as Savior. Being on this list gives me peace and joy while I’m here, and hope of a home in heaven when I’m gone…even if I don’t put my shopping cart back where it belongs.