Are you on the naughty or nice list?
Published 1:27 pm Wednesday, December 29, 2021
Author: R.A. Mathews
Every two-year-old knows what’s up. Just ask one.
They’ll warn you about Christmas—getting on the wrong list is a no-no. ‘Cause the naughty and nice suffer different fates.
It’s always been so.
Look at the very first Christmas—the nice received some pretty great gifts. First, Zechariah and Elizabeth, an elderly couple. The two are righteous before God and their dream comes true—a son. This is John the Baptist, who’ll herald the advent of the Messiah. Luke 1:6-80
Next, there’s Joseph, whom God trusted more than anyone (see my separate column), and Mary whom God adored. An angel tells her: “Greetings, you who are highly favored!” And, again. “Mary, you have found favor with God.” Luke 1:28,31
She and Joseph receive the greatest Christmas gift of all time—baby Jesus, the Son of God.
The third group is the shepherds. The angels tell them: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those with whom He is pleased.” Luke 2:14
Note: The angels didn’t say, “Peace to all.” They said, “Peace to those with whom He is pleased.” Their gift is seeing the Messiah first.
Who’s next? The old, old man of Christmas. Let’s see if you remember him. Was that:
Take a close look and lock in your answer. Who comes right after the shepherds?
I’ll narrow it for you: Not Santa Claus. The story of the bearded gent is nowhere in Scripture—Santa probably came from a wealthy 4th century man named Nicholas, who gave gifts to the poor.
Scripture’s old, old man in the Christmas story is someone entirely different. No red suit, reindeer, or presents. After the shepherds, Scripture says the next event in the Christmas story is the circumcision of Jesus at the temple when he was eight days old. Then the family returns to the temple for their purification.
Here’s the passage: “At the end of eight days, when He was circumcised, He was called Jesus… And when the time came for their purification…they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord…Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon…” The answer is #3, Simeon.
But who is this old, old man? And was he naughty or nice? Take a guess.Scripture tells us four things: First, Simeon is special. “The Holy Spirit was on him.” Luke 2:25
Second, the Spirit had given Simeon a revelation. “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.” Luke 2:26
Whoa! That’s big!
Third, is a downright amazing event. It seems that the Holy Spirit went to Simeon and told Simeon to go to the temple courts. Simeon is there when Mary and Joseph arrive for the purification, and Simeon takes baby Jesus into his arms and praises God:
“Sovereign Lord,” Simeon says, “as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation…” Luke 2:27-30
Looking at these amazing people, you may feel you belong on the naughty list. That your sins are too great. No. Not true.
David committed adultery with Bathsheba and ultimately ordered the murder of her husband. It was wholesale evil.
David belonged on the naughty list forever. But that’s not what happened.
Because David loved God more than anything. David repented, sought to live righteously, and God blessed him.
It’s not the falling down that counts—it’s the returning to God. No matter how many times you skin your knees, get up and go to Him. Sincerely want to change. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us…and cleanse us.” 1 John 1:9
You only need that verse and this one: “The blood of Jesus cleanses us.” 1 John 1:7
In the Christmas story, an angel tells Joseph that Jesus came to save us. Jesus is your Christmas gift, now and always.
There are no perfect people. We’re all in need of a Savior, of help. Seek holiness—go to God with praise. Talk to Him in prayer. Confess your wrongs. Learn to meditate. Study Scripture.
Any two-year-old can tell you—the nice get the good stuff. Those who love the Lord and seek to please Him receive God’s greatest blessings.
The Rev. Mathews (BA, MDiv, JD) is a faith columnist, mediator, and the author of “Reaching to God.” Write to her: Hello@RAMathews.com
Copyright © 2019, 2021 R.A. Mathews. All rights reserved.