Have you been good? I wrote a short guest blog for this wonderful mum, so do have a look there too. I also talked about this a ladies’ meeting recently, as it’s such a big thing around Christmas. So many thoughts come to mind when somebody asks us that, so here are my 5 thoughts about Christmas, blessings and being good enough.
1. Have you been good enough?
All through December people ask my children this, “Have you been good? Will Santa bring you something?” They meet with various responses. My youngest, who is seven and clearly on the path to some kind of job within law enforcement will frown, and explain that Santa is actually St Nicholas, and his birthday is celebrated on the 5th until the Americans took over. And anyway, he lived a very long time ago, and it’s simply the adults who buy their children presents. Making the person who asked the question regret they even tried…
My oldest, who is twelve will simply smile, looking as good as she can. The stress in her eyes and hands is palpable though. Have I been good enough? Kidding, of course not. I forgot a letter in English, three of my maths sums were wrong, I pushed my brother because he was annoying me, and I scowled at my parents yesterday. Good enough? Not a chance!
What about you? Have you been good enough? Are you worthy of God’s Gift to you?
I love Ephesians 2:8 and 9, For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. You see, it’s not about being good, it’s about being loved. It’s God’s Gift. We tell our children constantly, “We give you gifts because we love you for who you are, not for what you do or don’t do.” God’s unconditional love is so much more than our finite one. How many times have you heard parents say, “You don’t really deserve this, but…” My older ones are starting to tentatively expect some gifts for St Nicholas as well as ‘useful things and books’ for Christmas. Do you see gifts as something to be earned? How about salvation? Should you be pleasing to God in order for Him to save you?
We don’t give our children gifts, and then expect them to pay for them. Do we accept God’s greatest Gift in that way? We receive salvation, then try to pay God for His Gift?
2. What about the extras?
Maybe we are strong on ‘Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Christ Alone’ but what about all God’s other blessings? Do we expect those? My children know that for St Nicholas they will get one large-ish present. Something that they will ask for and prepare a list for. Their happiness when they receive other little things, even some chocolate, is so cute! You see, they weren’t expecting anything else!
In Romans 8 Paul points out how God has so many more blessings for us besides salvation. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
You see, sometimes we expect too little from our Heavenly Father. Or we only think of blessings as in Heaven to come. It is easy to take life itself for granted, although I think that has been the blessing of this crazy year. There are many things we don’t take for granted any more. Meeting with a friend for coffee, going on holiday, walking around a shop without being glared at from all sides… There are still many blessings left to us though. Do you expect them from your Heavenly Father? Do you think of God as showing His love to you in the little things? Or do you think of Him as a Scrooge who begrudgingly gives you small pleasures?
3. Fears of being hurt
This can show itself in different ways. Several times, my eldest has handed us her birthday list the evening before her birthday. Well, even Amazon won’t deliver in time! Why? In order to feel that the lack of presents was a logistical error, not a lack of love. This way, if there were no presents on her birthday she would have a reason that wasn’t horrendously painful. The reason she had no presents was that she hadn’t handed in her list in time. The alternative would be that she wasn’t loved enough to have gifts for her birthday…
Do we pray like that? Building in safety nets in our prayer, not really expecting God to answer our prayers anyway, but at least we had a reason for unanswered prayer? Do we adjust our expectations, so that what feels like unanswered prayer doesn’t hurt us? We can pray grudgingly, for good, spiritual things that we ‘ought to’ pray for as well trained Christians. Thinking that God will be more likely to answer those prayers. Like my daughter asking for a new jumper, socks or pyjamas, thinking she’s more likely to get at least something that way. Maybe we feel God will more likely answer the prayer for our Open Air Evangelism rather than the one for a quiet afternoon all by ourselves with a hot chocolate, bubble bath and a novel…
4. Blessing others
Another big part of Christmas is giving gifts to others. This is such a tricky area! “Right, we have something for Aunt Mabel, but it was only £4, and Uncle Frank has something for £7, so we need to get another little something for Aunt Mabel, otherwise it’s not fair!” Sorting out presents is such a faff, so you end up wrapping presents, moving stacks around to try and balance out the presents. (This year is easy for us, we give everybody a copy of my brand new book, Walled City. Go to my shop for your own signed copy…)
Or even worse, I know people who work on ‘who has deserved more’ based presents. Do we feel some people deserve Salvation more than others? Do we feel some people deserve to be blessed more by God? It’s starting to get marginally better in our home, but some of my children will look at the stacks belonging to siblings to see who is loved more. For stuff is love. So the more stuff you have, the more you were loved, obviously. Toddler toys are often large and clunky, so it looks like a lot of love stacked together. What about expensive little packages though?
It’s can be hard to look at others, to see what feels like huge blessings whilst counting our own small, fragile blessings. It all comes down to trust again, doesn’t it? Do we trust our Heavenly father enough? Do we accept that He loves us, and blesses us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places? Do we believe that He has given us all that we need and so much more?
5. This was not on my list
When children make a list they often put a dog, a new bike, unicorn or private swimming pool at the top. As parents, we sadly have to disappoint them. Does that mean we don’t love them? Of course not! Our children might sill feel let down though. This year, with Christmas so very different from all other years, do you feel let down? Do you feel unloved, forgotten? Do you feel God’s gifts to you at this time are a fob-off, as they were most definitely not on your list?
It took our older two children a while to come to terms with how lists work. You see, when you put thirty things on your list, you still get four presents for your birthday. The list is simply there to tell us what you would like for your birthday. “I had a lot more things on my list,” they would say or, “this wasn’t on my list, although I do like it!” Counting our blessings is so important, and trusting God through it all can be so hard. It is so easy to think we have clearly let God down somewhere to end up with a year like this. Maybe if I had been a better Christian, we would have had a better Christmas?
Maybe you feel the dark, December days are reflected in your heart at this time of year. Can I point you to a friend’s book, called Treasure in Dark Places. Liz Carter wrote this beautiful book whilst shielding, and it’s such a valuable gift! It is showing you God’s heart for you, helping you to trust Him more, love Him more, glorify Him more.
So, with Christmas almost here, in between frantically searching for a turkey and trappings, wrapping paper and another little something for Aunt Mabel, as well as ordering your own signed copy of Walled City, let me ask you, “Have you been good this year?“