[PART 5 OF 5]
I believe that the story of Santa Claus is the story of God!
As I’ve stated in my previous “Santa Claus Factor” articles, I believe the story of Santa Claus can be viewed as a parable that teaches us some important lessons about God. This will be my last article in this series.
4. Santa loves everyone, so …
… it is never too late for naughty kids to change and become nice.
Everyone knows that Santa doesn’t like giving lumps of coal to naughty kids. But naughtiness must be punished.
The same is true with God. Peter tells us, in 2 Peter 3:9, that God doesn’t want anyone to perish. He doesn’t want to have to punish anyone. That was the whole purpose of Jesus dying on the cross. He received the punishment for our sins, so that we wouldn’t have to (Isaiah 53:4-6). The only way that we can escape eternal punishment is to accept God’s gift and Christ’s sacrifice. But God has left it up to us to make that choice. He won’t force me to be saved from my sin, but He wants me to be.
Jesus told a parable that helps us understand this amazing love that God has for us, and how it has the power to transform our lives. Most people are familiar with the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke chapter 15.
There was a man who had two sons. The younger son came to his father and demanded his part of the inheritance. He was tired of living at home and was ready to “split this joint”. The father, probably somewhat reluctantly, gave the boy his inheritance.
The ungrateful son got all of his stuff together and went as far away from home as he could. He didn’t need his father. He didn’t need his brother. He didn’t need anyone. He was ready to get away from home, get away from everyone who was holding him down, and live his own life for once. He didn’t need anyone telling him what to do or how to do it, when to work or when to go to bed. “This is MY life, baby, and I’m going to live it the way I want to!” The Bible says that he “squandered his wealth in wild living”. Parties, women, booze … he was living the high life.
Until his money ran out.
What a pathetic picture is painted of this cocky, selfish, reckless young man. When the money disappeared, so did all his friends. He quickly went from high society and partying every night, to slopping pigs out in the field and starving to death. It was a hard fall! He was so hungry that he would have gladly eaten what the hogs were eating, but he was not even allowed to do that. This was about as low as a man can get.
And then he remembered.
Home wasn’t such a bad place after all. At least he had a warm bed to sleep in, plenty of food to eat, and people who loved him.
People who loved him.
“Oh my goodness! What have I done? Dad loved me more than anyone else ever has. He always took care of me, made sure I was safe, and provided me with everything I needed. And what did I do? I pretty much thumbed my nose at him and spit in his face.”
Faced with the harsh reality of his own shameful behavior, this once-cocky young man had a change of heart. He realized that his plight was the result of his own lousy choices. He knew that even the hired servants back home were better off than he was. So he made a decision. “I need to go back home.”
He didn’t deserve to go back home, and he knew that. He realized that he had probably messed up his relationship with his father so badly that things could never be the same as they were before he left home. But he still needed to go back home. “I’m not worthy to be treated as a son. But if he will just take me in as a hired servant, at least I’ll be home. At least I’ll be back where I belong.” This young man finally realized the error of his ways, and was willing to face the consequences of his actions.
So he started on the long journey home.
As he came within sight of his house, I can only imagine the emotions that were building within him: excitement, fear, worry, shame, nervousness, anticipation. I’m sure his stomach was tied in knots. His knees were probably beginning to feel weak.
And then something amazing happened.
In the distance, it looked like someone was coming down the road toward him. And they weren’t walking, they were running. And it wasn’t just anyone, it was his Dad. Those intensifying emotions were now overwhelming. Though this detail is not given in the story, I can imagine the son dropping to his knees, so overcome by emotion that he could not even continue to walk. I can imagine tears streaming down his face at the sight of his Daddy, whom he had treated so horribly, running to meet him.
The ensuing embrace as father meets son is the stuff of movies.
It didn’t matter that his son had been a self-righteous brat. It didn’t matter that his son had spit in his father’s face, and embarrassed the whole family. It didn’t matter what had happened while the son was off in a far country. “My son who was dead is alive again; he was lost and is found!” The only thing that mattered is that his boy was home! That’s just the way a Daddy’s heart works. “Welcome home, son!”
Jesus told that story for a reason.
God is like the father in the story. We are like that obnoxious son. God has done so much for us. Just look around at His creation. What an amazing place he has built from scratch, just for us! Look at all the wonderful institutions that He established just so that our lives would be full and meaningful and blessed: family, church, community. Look off in the distance, to a time and place far removed from here and now, and yet so foundational to everything about who we are – look to the cross.
Can we even comprehend the magnitude of what happened on that skull-shaped hill outside Jerusalem some two thousand years ago? Can we even wrap our minds around the significance of that moment in time, and how pervasively it has shaped the history of mankind? We simply cannot think about how much God has done for us without our minds going back to the cross, falling to our knees as the prodigal did at the realization of his father’s undeserved love, weeping uncontrollably as God wraps His arms around us and points to His Son on the cross before us and whispers in our ears, “I love you.”
Jesus told the story of the Prodigal Son to remind us how much God loves us, knowing that He himself would be the one to hang on a cross as proof of that love. He told the story so that we would always remember that, no matter how far we have strayed, we can always come home. And God will run to meet us!
No matter how naughty we have been, it is never too late to change and be nice.
Part 1: “The Santa Claus Factor”
Part 2: “The Santa Claus Factor 2”
Part 3: “The Santa Claus Factor 3”
Part 4: “The Santa Claus Factor 4”
Part 5: “The Santa Claus Factor 5”