“Maddy! Stop jumping on the wrapping paper,” I yelled at my shih tzu, who thought it was playtime. I was attempting to wrap Christmas presents. Undaunted, Maddy ran to and fro across my open roll of paper engaging her sister, Cassie the Peekapoo, in a rigorous game of “Catch Me If You Can.”
Half-amused and half-frustrated, I said, “You two better knock it off or Santa Paws won’t bring you any presents!”
It was a bold-faced lie. BFF Sarah and I had already purchased doggie delights for the two little scamps on our mega-Black Friday shopping extravaganza. (Usually, we are the only two people running into PetSmart with unadulterated glee on Black Friday! Half-priced candy cane bones! Score! Well, we weren’t the *only* two people this year because there was a hot deal on kitty litter.) My dogs don’t know who Santa Paws is anyway. If a bearded old man did somehow break into our house on Christmas Eve, Cassie would probably bite him and Maddy would give him a tour of the apartment. (And I refuse to leave my chocolate chip cookies out for anyone, even Santa.)
See, they can’t even behave long enough to get a cute Christmas picture taken! Maddy the Shih Tzu instigated an attack on Cassie the Peekapoo.
Then it struck me how often I’ve heard parents tell grouchy youngsters to behave or “Santa won’t come.” As if he really wouldn’t come! I mean, there are a few cruel parents out there who may abide by this principle, but for the most part, it’s a lie. No matter how terrible your kids are, like my dogs, they are going to get some awesome gifts come Christmas morning.
The “be good, get gifts” myth is further propagated by the emergence of “Elf on a Shelf.” For those of you who haven’t been acquainted with this marketing tool, let me explain. For $30, a family can get a cheaply made freaky-looking elf that spies on kids and reports their misdeeds to Santa. Oh, and he comes with a book. You can also buy a skirt to make “him” a “her.” But it really just looks like a boy elf wearing a skirt. Personally, “Elf On a Shelf” freaks me out. (And it also disproves the myth that Santa is omnipresent. I mean, “he sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake”? Is Santa stalking me?)
It’s no wonder that people think they have to earn their God-given salvation. I mean, when everything we get is based on our behavior, how can the free gift of grace actually be free? Surely, there is a cost for entrance into heaven! What’s the catch to this whole “broken curse of mankind” thing? In a culture obsessed with good works, earning potential, and extreme couponing, free only comes with hard work, smarts, time, and a bit of creativity.
Yet the gift of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is very costly indeed. It costs everything—our minds, souls, bodies, and spirits. But if you’re like me, you’re a mental mess, a failing body, and a spiritual disaster. There’s not much to give a God who created everything and everyone, including me. A renewed relationship with God, a broken curse, and spending eternity in a place where God’s glory lights the place in exchange for an earthly life given to God’s use and for His purpose? There’s no comparison.
And I can never, ever, ever be good enough to get that. No matter how many dogs I rescue and return to their owners, how many times I help out my elderly neighbors, or how many Bible studies I lead, I’m still carrying the curse of Adam and Eve. Or I would had I not accepted the hand God held out to me so very long ago.
I will never be good enough—not for Santa’s gifts or Christ’s salvation. But, fortunately, even if I’m on Santa’s Naughty List, there will always be a heavenly scroll that bears my name and I will always be close to the heart of a God who has “Amy” written on His very palms.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who finds Santa’s Naughty List disturbing. When looking for funny pictures of Santa, I came across Amy (doesn’t she have a lovely name?) Henry’s post, “The Flawed Theology of Naughty and Nice Lists.” She says it beautifully, but doesn’t talk about shih tzus or Elf On A Shelf, so you’ll have to read mine, too.