Santa Claus Theology

by Edie Wadsworth on December 20, 2010

I doubt there’s one of us left who escapes it.
It’s our natural theology.
“He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice” haunts us from the time we’re old enough to talk and we fear that our nice hasn’t been nice enough.
The sad truth is, it hasn’t.

By December 24th, I’ve committed enough sin in one year to fill a lifetime. And you probably have too.
Yet, we continue to operate in our relationship with God as if he’s like Santa Claus.
Maybe if we manage to keep a few basic rules of *niceness* in this life, we’ll get what’s on our list.
How many times have I told myself, “I’m a pretty good person”?
To borrow Pastor Cwirla’s description, we’ve allowed the transactional nature of our culture and of secular Christmas to seep into our spirits. And even if we deny it with our lips, we fear it’s true with all our being.
He’s keeping score. “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake.”

And we know it beyond a shadow of a doubt. The gnawing, besetting sins that keep us in bondage remind us that we are not measuring up.

But does He really keep track? When He looks at me, does He have my ‘naughty’ list in His hand, ready to read it back to me in all its gory detail?

The answer to that question is yes and no.

He keeps track. He knows every sin. Every single one.  The lies, the gossip, the unkind words, the evil thoughts, the hatred and jealousy.

He knows them all.

But He’s not keeping them in a sin file to use against me later when He’s ready to weigh the balance and see whether the ‘nice’ outweighs the naughty’. He already knows the answer to that question and I don’t fare very well.

Instead, like a loving Father, he sends His son into the world, as a little tiny baby—the Word made flesh—-to redeem it back to Himself.

He himself will right what has been wronged.

He himself will find what has been lost.

He himself will die so that we may live.


He doesn’t overlook my sin like a senile grandfather.  I can’t ‘make up for it’ in the month before Christmas by doing a lot of good deeds.

He knows every last sin and takes it on Himself and nails it to the cross. My punishment is paid in full. He has tipped the scale. And in the process, He’s made me into something much more than ‘nice’. He has washed me clean in the waters of baptism. He has made me whole with the food from heaven, his very own body and blood. He has deemed me holy with the righteousness of Christ. He loves me. He is my Father. And He has given me EVERYTHING I need in the gift of His son.

And He’s done it in such a way that I can’t possibly take any credit. I didn’t seek him or choose him or love him or deserve him. His grace gift is free and the repentance that is required to receive Him is a gift from Him as well.
Our God is no Santa Claus. He will not strike a deal with us. There is no bargaining. He is not waiting for us to do ‘our part’.
He is our Father and has revealed   His undeserved love and kindness toward  us in Jesus.  The work, the striving, the rule-keeping, the measuring up–he’s taken it all upon Himself.   Perhaps He wonders why we are still trying to keep score.     In Christ, we are reconciled to the Father and no amount of ‘niceness’ could ever have done that for us.   We receive His forgiveness and His love with thankful hearts and look with joy and wonder at the miracle of His incarnation.

What a grand relief!

Love has come.

And He has freed us from naughty and nice.

May His peace be your gift this Christmas.

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{ 68 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Amy Avery December 20, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Thank you for posting this Edie. I just finished reading and pondering your post on the Good Samaritan. Amazing, really! Edie, I must ask you, have you ever considered going into the seminary? Perhaps, you have. Perhaps God is molding your heart for that calling in the future. You minister already to all of us who read your blog as well as those who know you personally. You are the C.S. Lewis of our time. God continue to bless you, friend.

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2 edie wadsworth December 20, 2010 at 9:23 pm

you have been such an encouragement to me ms. amy. and let email you sent the other day—–like sweet medicine for a weary heart. i am so blessed. and you are wayyy to kind to me.
i don’t think i’ll ever be going to seminary although i’ve tried to talk my husband into it just so i can learn alongside him!
sending you much love sweet friend.
xo,
edie

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3 Craig S. December 20, 2010 at 7:22 pm

Ahhhh, that the answer is yes AND no, is at once both surprising and theologically insightful. And when Santa scrutinizes us, if he surveys with better eyes, he can only make out the perfect – the wrongs forgiven, the nice not enough, but there is Grace. Our Lord has freed us, me, you, us. This is what God would have us focus on and write about. This is iron sharpening iron. I am sharpened and blessed by the reading of your words. Thank you Edie.

Merry “Forgiven” Christmas to you and all of yours.

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4 Charity December 20, 2010 at 7:29 pm

What a great reminder that we can neither “measure up” nor need to try to. That all sufficient grace – what a gift!

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5 Shea December 20, 2010 at 7:31 pm

Beautiful post.

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6 Tara December 20, 2010 at 7:35 pm

what a sweet ministry of truth and grace you give to us, faithfully.

Jesus, help us to know deep within our spirits that you are the only good in us and that your grace is poured out daily…moment by moment.

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7 FringeGirl December 20, 2010 at 8:17 pm

Boy that was good! I’m sharing it now.
-FringeGirl

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8 patty December 20, 2010 at 8:59 pm

you have so many talents and i think this is another… to speak or write so poetically and passionately about this love, your faith. maybe you were meant to preach in a church, or lead others spiritually… or, maybe that’s just what you do here, and maybe that’s why this blogging thing came about and why, when you think you want to let it rest, you don’t. xoxo another beautiful post, miss edie.
thanks for this weekend.

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9 ulli December 20, 2010 at 9:12 pm

Well said and beautiful. All we need and everything we don’t deserve has been given to us as a gift! What a wondrous Father we have! Christmas joys and blessings to you and yours.

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10 Smjlfn December 20, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Thank you.:) This was a blessing. I found your link through facebook and glad I did.:)

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11 Trish @TheOldPostRoad December 20, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Edie – Well written post! Keep it up. Merry Christmas!
-Trish

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12 Molly Pearce December 21, 2010 at 12:11 am

I needed to hear this again Edie! Thank you! Merry Christmas!
~Molly P

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13 Anonymous December 21, 2010 at 12:30 am

awesome and amen!!! He is no Santa Claus.
Have a blessed and MERRY Christmas!

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14 Southern Gal December 21, 2010 at 12:40 am

Truth is spoken here. Thank you for that. No sugar coated theology, but the real thing. It’s truly a blessing to read your posts. Blessings to you…and hugs, too!

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15 elizabeth December 21, 2010 at 1:49 am

amen

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16 elizabeth highsmith December 21, 2010 at 1:58 am

“even if we deny it with our lips we fear it’s true with all our being”
my being needed the reminder, thank you sweet Edie for pointing us right time after time.

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17 sheri December 21, 2010 at 2:40 am

Awesome blog. Love it. Love your blog. Merry Christmas :)

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18 Rachel December 21, 2010 at 3:25 am

You had me at Martin Luther. So, I appreciate your thoughts here and agree and love your blog BUT you had me at Martin Luther.

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19 Sarahsbluecastle December 21, 2010 at 4:55 am

Beautiful and somehow just what I needed tonight. Thank you.

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20 Gevay Maddern Piercefield December 21, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing this.

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21 Sarah December 21, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Beautifully written. Honest message. Amen!
Merry CHRISTmas Edie!!!
God’s blessings,
Sarah :)

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22 Joy December 21, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Love, love, love. I want to respond with some lovely words, but cannot because I just want to process yours. Thank you for ministering to my heart.

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23 paige December 21, 2010 at 5:22 pm

absolutely completely perfectly true
rejoicing that He isn’t just a jolly human good guy. rejoicing that He came to be our deliverer. He is near!!
merry christmas precious friend
xoxo

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24 Kkdstoltz December 21, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Wonderfully put! God Bless and Merry Christmas.

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25 Susan Whitehead December 21, 2010 at 7:10 pm

Love love LOVE this. I’ve heard several people talk about how “God likes when we do ‘abc’, but He loves us more when we do ‘xyz’.” SO sad how people miss the Amazing GRACE He’s given. I will be sharing this.

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26 Sue December 22, 2010 at 2:49 am

I am reminded of that beautiful song that was out not to long ago that goes something like “. . . Not because what I’ve done but because of who You are, not because of who I am but because of what You’ve done. . .” When the time comes even Santa’s knee will bow.

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27 Storybookwoods December 22, 2010 at 8:35 am

Very well said and Merry Christmas. Clarice

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28 AngieWade December 22, 2010 at 10:19 am

Edie, You and your family are in my prayers right now as I’ve learned of your loss; I’m so thankful to know that eveyone is okay. My heart breaks for you, yet I know the Lord will provide. ~Angie Graves Wade

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29 Savoryone December 22, 2010 at 3:51 pm

thank you for this…I started to skip through in the interest of time. but, something made me go back. the Holy Spirit? anyway, it was so very well put. blessings and prayers to you and yours…

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30 Cathy December 22, 2010 at 4:15 pm

I LOVED THIS. thank you so much. I’m reading it to my family tonight.

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31 Anonymous December 22, 2010 at 7:10 pm

Amen!!! Such powerful truth to fill our hearts and minds this season. May we be filled with the true meaning of this season.

Ruth

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32 Thehelpfulhousewife December 23, 2010 at 12:05 am

Oh Edie. I just found out about your house. i am so sorry to hear about that but I’m glad you all are safe. We will be praying for you!

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33 amanda December 23, 2010 at 5:58 am

love this post! It’s hard not to see God weighing out the good and bad we do on those golden scales of His isn’t it? So thankful this Christmas that we serve a sweet Savior full of love and grace. Thanks for the reminder!

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34 Leslie@Farmfreshfun December 23, 2010 at 11:27 am

Dear Edie and Family, You are all in my prayers right *now.* I am praying for peace and comfort and a Christmas full of exceptional JoYs as you come together as a family after your house fire. I pray it wasn’t too bad and you’re not too displaced. News travels fast in blogland and I’m sure that many many others are praying for you as well. We love your wise words, caute crafts, fab foods, pretty pics and we feel we’ve come to know you and *love you*… May God Bless!
(((hugs)))
Leslie
ps I just posted about naughty n nice but your words are so much better. Peace be with you!

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35 Sdhdmg4jc December 23, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Praying for you and your family!!

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36 Amelia Onsrud December 23, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Lifting you and your family up in prayer. Thankful that you and your family are safe.

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37 Mary Sue December 23, 2010 at 4:41 pm

We are praying that God will overflow your hearts with His goodness and bind your family together in His comfort. We love you Edie.

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38 Amy Avery December 23, 2010 at 7:23 pm

Edie, I just heard that your family has been in crisis because of a fire. I am not sure what the extent of the fire was, but I am praying for you all that God will bring you peace in your time of need. I know that you have many friends outside of blogland that surround you, but if there is anything at all that you need, I am close by here in Knoxville and will help in any way I can. God bless you Edie and your family.
Much love,
Amy

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39 Elaine December 23, 2010 at 11:33 pm

‘Perhaps He wonders why we are still trying to keep score.’ Ouch.

Have just come across your blog tonight: what you said in this post really hit home to me. Thanks.

E x

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40 Anonymous December 24, 2010 at 1:25 am

This is such a beautiful post, Edie. Once again, thank you so much for blessing all of us with your words.

I’ve just heard about the tragedy you and your family are facing now. I’m praying God will bless you all with His peace and comfort during this challenging time.

Much love to you and yours, friend.

Lisa

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41 susie December 25, 2010 at 6:44 pm

amen! thank you for that wonderful reminder!

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42 Kimsetser December 25, 2010 at 9:30 pm

I love your posts about the grace of God. Thank you for the reminder that there’s nothing we can do to “make up” for our sins, and that judgement day will not be a time of reviewing all our sins on the big screen and handing out demerits. He already knew every sin we would commit and He died for us anyway…no words to express the depth of that love. You and Steve are on our minds…Jay misses his Twitter buddy.

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43 Jen -BeautyandBedlam December 26, 2010 at 5:35 am

Edie, my sweet friend – just want you to know your family is in our prayers. My daughters are sitting by me as I type and I’ve shown them your sweet family, home school room, kitchen etc and we’ve prayed over those very spots right now. The verbage that the Lord brings beauty from ashes sounds so hollow and cliche, but your steadfast heart for Him will continue to minister to many. I am SO grateful to Him that He spared your lives and no injury came from this….love you!

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44 Anonymous December 26, 2010 at 10:50 am

May the God you lean on daily, bless you and yours with a strength and thankfulness you never knew existed. To one of my very favorite BLOG FRIENDS, I am sad with you. Praying. Praise God for sparing those so dear.

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45 Jfm722 December 26, 2010 at 4:50 pm

I have always loved your blog. Your love for your family and children is so beautiful. The pictures of your decorating have always inspired me. I am so thankful to God that you and your family survived the fire. My prayers are with you.

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46 Carrie December 26, 2010 at 8:04 pm

Amen…very well said. Thank you for bringing it forward…all because of WHO HE IS and WHAT HE HAS DONE…Glory to God in the HIGHEST!
Merry Christmas to you and yours!
Oh, and I made the dishmats you had posted last year….I struggled with what colors to make them and decided to make them pink to honor and bless the women who have touched our lives who have been touched or affected by breast cancer. I love your blog…don’t comment much because of my dinosaur computer, but love it! Going to practice my fabric flower making next!

Love,
C~

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47 Carrie December 26, 2010 at 8:04 pm

Amen…very well said. Thank you for bringing it forward…all because of WHO HE IS and WHAT HE HAS DONE…Glory to God in the HIGHEST!
Merry Christmas to you and yours!
Oh, and I made the dishmats you had posted last year….I struggled with what colors to make them and decided to make them pink to honor and bless the women who have touched our lives who have been touched or affected by breast cancer. I love your blog…don’t comment much because of my dinosaur computer, but love it! Going to practice my fabric flower making next!

Love,
C~

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48 Iowamom December 26, 2010 at 8:05 pm

Praying for you and your family. So glad you are safe. May God bless you during this difficult time.

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49 Iowamom December 26, 2010 at 8:05 pm

Praying for you and your family. So glad you are safe. May God bless you during this difficult time.

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50 Betty B December 26, 2010 at 9:15 pm

Oh Edie and family – I am so truly sorry for what has happened. Thank God you were all spared. May God be with you all as you face this tragedy. You will rally I know as you have such courage and unbelilevable faith

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51 Margaretandbobby December 27, 2010 at 12:01 am

Edie – I have long followed your blog, and I am praying for your dear family. My you all feel the peace that only He can give – the peace that surpasses all understanding. Praise Him that your precious family was spared! God bless you all.

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52 Debra December 27, 2010 at 2:00 am

Merii Kurisumasu from Japan! Keeping you all in my prayers!

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53 Queen B December 27, 2010 at 2:44 am

So thankful that you and your family are safe. So very sorry for the enormous loss that you have suffered. Praying that the peace of our Heavenly Father fills you. I know that you will glorify Him through this trial and that you will be blessed. Just praying.

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54 Skpleasa December 27, 2010 at 2:58 pm

The God as Santa correlation became vivid to me last Christmas… it has been a pet peeve ever since. So many people judge what is ‘fair’ by our own perceptions of justice, totally forgetting that there is no great or small sin. “I wonder what he/she did for God to send this their way”. So many people have their faith shaken because of this wayward thinking. I really appreciate your post, and I am so sorry for your family’s loss. But in this time of rebuilding, please remember that God is with you and He has great things in store for you. Through His people, He will restore to you all that has been lost and more. “All things work to the good for those who love the Lord.” Merry Christmas…

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55 Karen_annette_davis December 27, 2010 at 11:43 pm

Oh Edie, I just read about what happened….my prayer is restoration for you and your family….more than what you had before….so very sorry….many people will be praying ….sincerely Karen (not a blogger yet…just love reading them)

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56 Karen_annette_davis December 27, 2010 at 11:43 pm

Oh Edie, I just read about what happened….my prayer is restoration for you and your family….more than what you had before….so very sorry….many people will be praying ….sincerely Karen (not a blogger yet…just love reading them)

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57 Karen_annette_davis December 27, 2010 at 11:43 pm

Oh Edie, I just read about what happened….my prayer is restoration for you and your family….more than what you had before….so very sorry….many people will be praying ….sincerely Karen (not a blogger yet…just love reading them)

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58 Melanie H December 28, 2010 at 2:27 am

This is one of the most beautiful posts I’ve ever read on a blog! Thanks so much for sharing your heart. I am just read about your loss at Nesting Place & I am praying for your family, that God would do exceedingly more than you could ask or imagine in these present circumstances. Praising Him that your family is okay!!

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59 Tasha December 28, 2010 at 3:44 am

Edie,

I’m so thankful that you and your family are safe.
May the Lord embrace you all in His peace and comfort as He leads you through this time.

Tasha

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60 Janell Beals December 28, 2010 at 5:44 am

I found your blog through another today, and I am so sorry for you and your family’s loss. I truly hope all the support needed comes your way to get you through this difficult time…you are in my thoughts.
Janell

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61 Janet December 28, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Edie,

You and your family are in my prayers. I have loved your blog for such a long time. Please let your blog friends know how we can help you in this time of tragedy.

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62 Anonymous December 28, 2010 at 7:00 pm

praying for you!

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63 hollyferrero December 29, 2010 at 1:58 am

Hi – just found you from Nester’s blog. So sorry about your house and things but happy you and your family are ok. I have read several pages of posts and I really appreciate your thoughts, especially this post. Thanks for sharing.

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64 Sara December 29, 2010 at 2:11 am

Hi Edie,

I heard about your house yesterday, and I have been thinking of you and praying for you and your family. Although I did not go through a fire, I know the feeling you wrestle with of the home you love playing a part in an event in which someone in your family could have gotten hurt (we were victims of a home invasion several months ago, but thankfully we were safe too). I know you are dealing with so many emotions right now, but I known God will get you through the mental and emotional recuperation the same way he got you and your family out of that house safely, you just have trust God in ways you’ve never had to before!

Sending all my prayers and hope your way.

Sara

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65 Sea Cottage December 29, 2010 at 2:21 am

I am so sorry for your loss. My heartbreaks for you…for our home is our sanctuary and our refuge..it is especially difficult if our ‘school’ is in our home too. This is my first time to your blog…I was lead here by another blogger. I am grateful to find that you have the Lord’s love to comfort you through this time. He knows and understands your suffering more than we can comprehend. My family has been in threat of losing our home due to my husband’s loss of job this year. I have had to lean not on my own understanding but trust the Lord with all my heart. I have had to believe that He always wants what is best for me(and my family) and His best is more than I can comprehend. One night when my heart was full of anxiety, He said “You are mine” over and over until I became calm. It has stayed with me especially on days of struggle…”You are mine.” Maybe in the days ahead it will be of help to you too…”You are His.” He is your shepherd and you will not be in want. Lean on Him, believe that He will provide and restore you. ((hug)) love~kerrie

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66 Sea Cottage December 29, 2010 at 2:21 am

I am so sorry for your loss. My heartbreaks for you…for our home is our sanctuary and our refuge..it is especially difficult if our ‘school’ is in our home too. This is my first time to your blog…I was lead here by another blogger. I am grateful to find that you have the Lord’s love to comfort you through this time. He knows and understands your suffering more than we can comprehend. My family has been in threat of losing our home due to my husband’s loss of job this year. I have had to lean not on my own understanding but trust the Lord with all my heart. I have had to believe that He always wants what is best for me(and my family) and His best is more than I can comprehend. One night when my heart was full of anxiety, He said “You are mine” over and over until I became calm. It has stayed with me especially on days of struggle…”You are mine.” Maybe in the days ahead it will be of help to you too…”You are His.” He is your shepherd and you will not be in want. Lean on Him, believe that He will provide and restore you. ((hug)) love~kerrie

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67 J-ROK December 30, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Hello, like many others, I was led here via another blog’s request to lift up prayers for you (Starr Family). So sorry about your loss and on a totally different vein… so totally into your blog! I’ve been enjoying reading many of your old posts and will be returning often. Granted, I’m just super excited to connect with another Lutheran blogger! It’s all about GRACE. Looking forward to supporting your in cyber land through the rest of your journey. Thank goodness the Lord is with you on this difficult journey!

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68 Atonewithhim January 5, 2011 at 6:12 am

you’re an inspiration. i have so much on my heart right now and i am in awe of your strength.
we too had a devastating december,
i am ashamed at myself for not having gods word in my heart to give me strength and answers.
answers in his promise. i have always had a hard time with the living in this world and living gods plan.
how to make the 2 work.
thank you e, for your words.

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