by Danetta Kellar
Tears streamed down her face as she tried to explain to me what was causing her so much woe.
I could not understand her jumbled words between the sobs.
“jusdhat siadillf mmmeisgah wumph!”
I do not speak Sobbing Hiccup very fluently, and I truly had no idea what was making my child so upset. One minute we were driving happily down the road on a sunny afternoon, talking about Christmas. The next thing I knew she was unintelligible and crying her eyes out.
Turning my rearview mirror so I could look directly at her splotchy sweet face, I implored, “Calm down, and tell me what is wrong.” I don’t know about you, but drama seems to thrive when we are all in the car together. Something about the close quarters, I suppose.
“I-I-I-I’m a bad girl. I know I am on the naughty list! And now I won’t get any presents on Christmas morrrrrrnnnnning,” she wailed.
I took a moment to think, and pray, and breathe instead of react. Traditional Christmas lore was stepping on my toes and infringing on my family peace. I was feeling more than a little resentful of the old naughty/nice fable as I looked into the sincerely anxious eyes of my dear, made-in-God’s-image, growing-in-grace, learning-to-forgive-her-brothers, encouraging, beautiful, seven-year-old.
After a few moments and those arrow prayers that we mothers know only too well when wisdom is needed fast!, I was armed and ready to respond. The Ole’ Naughty List was coming down.
“Sweetheart, I need to tell you something really important. The naughty and nice list is just a story that was made up a long time ago to help children be good at Christmastime. The truth is, we are all on the Naughty List and God loves us anyway! I’m on it, Daddy’s on it, your brothers are on it, we are all on it, because no one can be good all the time! On that first Christmas in Bethlehem so long ago, God sent the best gift of all to us, even though we were all naughty and did not really deserve it. You see, Christmas is really about getting a gift even though you are naughty. You receive gifts on Christmas not because you are good, but because you are loved. You are loved no matter what you do."
I paused here a second, beginning to doubt myself. What if this backfired on me? What if my children waged an all-out rebellion, throwing all constraint to the wind, transforming into greedy little monsters, entitled to all they desired on Christmas morning? Could I survive without the pending doom of being on the Naughty List? Could I really abandon this age-old tool? Could I approach Christmas without the delicious threat of No Presents If You Are Naughty?
I don’t know about your house, but in ours the holidays seem to accentuate our sinful natures. Grouchy children, grouchy parents, fighting siblings, and greedy hearts can make the Season of Peace seem more like a Self-Centered Circus. We are all guilty. As charged. Definitely on the naughty list.
We need Jesus’ unconditional love at Christmastime more than ever.
We do not need to be an anxious seven-year-old to worry that if we are not good enough we won’t be blessed. Secretly in our hearts even we adults suspect that things are so stressful because we have just not been good enough. Our badness marches in front of us like a gaudy Christmas parade, reminding us that we have failed, and failed, and failed again. No gift of grace for us this Christmas.
But we have gotten it all wrong somewhere along the way. This just simply is not the true Gospel. We cannot work our way into deserving any gift from God.
The gospel that came at Christmas was precisely a gift to the naughty.
It was a free, undeserved, powerful gift that no amount of human goodness could ever have earned. It was relief and rest to the weary. Those weary of trying so hard.
I looked at my little one in the back seat, the one who tries so hard to be good, and I gently explained to her that Christmas gifts all started because God loved us even when we were naughty. And He gave us the best gift of all, Himself. No matter what. Good days, bad days, nice days, mean days. Our gift. All because He loves us.
"You will receive a gift on Christmas morning because you are loved. Not because you are good or bad.
God loved us so much on the first Christmas that He gave us His Son Jesus. Not because we were good. But because He loved us no matter what," I explained to my sweet girl.
So we don’t believe in the Naughty/Nice Lists anymore at our house. We know we are on the Naughty List and we feel so much more loved because of it.
Have you ousted a traditional Christmas fable from your home? Tell me about it!
We were given the first Christmas gift while we were all still on the Naughty List. (Click to Tweet)