Each year, little children write letters to Santa Claus, act as their own defense attorney, and plead their case for placement on the Nice List. After all, “He’s making a list, He’s checking it twice, He’s gonna’ find out who’s naughty or nice…” Our childhood is spent in Santa’s courtroom, hoping our good deeds outweigh our bad, with Christmas morning being our yearly judgment. Santa demands we supply our own goodness, but God has made a better way.
According to Scripture, if we take Santa’s track and strive to “be a good person,” producing our own righteousness, we run into trouble. “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” (Isaiah 64:6) If we’re honest, our best deeds are usually tainted: we love only those who love us, help those who can help us, and give to simply feel better about ourselves. These deeds may be good enough for Santa, but not for God. Fortunately, God isn’t interested in our righteousness, but supplies His own. Of Jesus, the apostle Paul says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
God gave us Jesus Christ, who is totally righteous and good, but not because we were on the Nice List. “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy…” (Titus 3:4-5) Santa shows favor to us because of the good within us; God shows us favor because of the good within Him. God said of Jesus, “I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” (Isaiah 46:24) We have to hold onto that Branch because, as David himself said, “I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’” (Psalm 16:2)
We don’t know if we’ve pleased Santa until we hurry out of bed on Christmas morning and find our favorite toys under the tree instead of a lump of coal. With God, we can confidently claim Jesus as our righteousness, our goodness forever, for Paul says again, “…he who began a good work will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) In the back of our minds, do we believe God is like Santa Claus, tagging us with naughty one year and nice the next? Oh, the joy and rest we receive when we quit trying to land on any list and proclaim, “Full of splendor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever.” (Psalm 111:3)