A Journey of Christmas with Joy in Hope
by PASTOR MARK LOVE
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church
I loved the old Calvin and Hobbes cartoons during the Christmas season. During the days leading up to Christmas, Calvin’s thoughts and hopes became more and more haunted by Santa’s rule of gift giving: “If you’re good, you’ll get lots of toys and, if you’re bad, you’ll get nothing.” Trusting in the words, “He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake,” the ever in trouble, ever self-absorbed and self-serving Calvin is worried about Santa’s judgment. Knowing his guilt and mischief, Calvin tried anything that would enable him to be judged as good.
In a Sunday spread of Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin is dreaming, and he sees Santa consulting with his elves about Calvin’s past year. As the panels of the cartoon flow, Calvin’s case grows worse and finally Santa declares, “I’ve made my decision,” and the dream ends. Calvin awakes as if from a nightmare and says with a frightened and horrified look, “I can’t take it.” For Calvin the days before Christmas were a long journey down the corridors of his life toward the day of judgment.
It’s said that humor is born of tragedy and hard times. What made Calvin’s dilemma so humorous to me was all the creative ways he would think of to try and receive a good judgment. First, Calvin wanted his friend Hobbes to be his attorney pleading extenuating circumstances. Second, he would try to do all kinds of good things to prove he was good, but that lasted only as long as the next temptation. Third, he would try to reason away Santa’s ability to know about all the bad things he had done.
As troublesome as Calvin and Hobbes‘ journey to Christmas may be for them, this journey is a joyous one filled with hope for all who believe in Jesus Christ.
The angel proclaims, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger,” (Lk. 2:10-12). And we rejoice because God gave us His Son and with Him—the “goods” of His Son Jesus Christ—not because we were good enough, but because we could never be good enough.
As sinners there are no “naughty or nice” among us, “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith,” (Rm. 3:22-25).
By virtue of our being conceived in sin (Ps. 51:5) we are only naughty. We rejoice in God’s gift of Christmas because it means that God’s love for us is greater than our lack of love for him and one another. God reveals that at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ came and died for the ungodly. In this way God demonstrates his own love for us in this: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Rm. 5:6-8).
In this lies the real joy of this season and the reason that gifts are freely given—giving that does not look at naughty or nice, but giving that only sees the need of others to be loved and know that they are loved.
Calvin looked upon his journey toward Christmas as a journey to judgment. Through faith in Jesus Christ—God’s gift of Christmas—we make this journey with the Gift and it is one of hope and joy.
On behalf of the members of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, we pray that the true God will grant you the richest of joy in the Advent of our God, our Lord, and our Savior—Jesus Christ. Amen.