Are You On The Naughty List?

Text: Jeremiah 23:5-8

In the name of Jesus: Amen.
Many years ago my family and I had a wonderful time giving my grandfather a lump of coal for Christmas.  Yes, that is all he got.  No shiny presents and no Christmas cards.  A dusty lump of coal in a cardboard box – that was it!  While he took it well and we all enjoyed the laugh, the idea of giving a lump of coal to someone for Christmas clearly shows that they are naughty.  It shows that they are not deserving of Christmas; that they don’t qualify as a worthy recipient of Christmas. 

Now, with that said, have you ever thought about who Christmas is for? 

As you all know, our Santa Clause story teaches us that good ol’ Saint Nic comes only for good boys and girls, those that are found on the nice list.  Bad girls and boys that do not make the nice list may, like my grandfather, be left with a lump of coal from the fireplace.  Or worse, they could be left with twigs, a bag of salt, or garlic and onions.  Therefore, Christmas from the perspective of Santa Clause is for people on the ‘nice list,’ people who are good throughout the year. Remember the well-known lyrics of, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town?”

He's making a list, And checking it twice; Gonna find out who's naughty and nice.

Santa Claus is coming to town.

He sees you when you're sleeping. He knows when you're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!

So, my friends, what list are you on today? 

As you answer this question for yourself, keep in mind that God’s holiness demands perfection in thought, word, and deed.  God does not judge on a curve, and our trying does not count for anything.  Jesus says, “Unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, we will never enter the Kingdom.” (See Matthew 5:20) He also says, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (See Matthew 5:48)  And so, to be placed on God’s good list, one must be able to fulfill (in thought, word, and deed) all the good and righteous requirements of the 10 Commandments.  Therefore, let me ask you again, what list are you on?  Have you loved the Lord your God with your whole body, soul, and mind?  Have you loved your neighbor as yourself?

If we are honest with ourselves, it is obvious that you and I are on the naughty list.  Thus, according to Santa Clause theology, Christmas is not for you and me, for Christmas is only for those on the good list.
But when we consider our Old Testament reading from the Prophet Jeremiah, we hear something different.  We hear about the promise of one coming who would spring forth like a new righteous branch.  In other words, Jeremiah speaks of the imagery of a new branch springing forth out of a dead and lifeless stump.  This new branch is none other than Jesus!  And there is more, 600 years before the birth of Jesus, Jeremiah says that this new righteous branch – Jesus – will be called, “The Lord is our Righteousness.”   Yes, “The Lord is our Righteousness.”  In other words, the one coming – Jesus – would be righteous in not only obeying the law in every way but righteous because He would be without sin! 

But what does this have to do with the season of Advent and Christmas? 

Dear friends, the name given to Jesus by Jeremiah – The Lord is our Righteousness – embraces Jesus’ entire purpose.  Jesus is indeed righteous, but this righteousness is for you and me.  He is “our” righteousness!  To the point though; Jesus is the one who came to be righteousness for those on the naughty list.  He is the one who comes to not only supply righteousness before God the Father on our behalf but to wrap you and me in His righteousness so that we – who are on the naughty list as sinners – might be saved.

And so, Jesus did not come that Christmas long ago for those on the good list, but those on the naughty list. He came for the ungodly.  He came for the unrighteous.  He came for sinners.  He came to be righteousness for you and me. 

There is an old theologian named Fredrick Wisloff, and in his little book titled, “Hvil eder litt,” he states the following,

“Had there been no sin on earth, there would have been no Christmas. Had there been no sinners, there would have been no need of a Savior. For this very reason, the Christmas Gospel is a message for sinners. And only those who acknowledge their sins can understand the true meaning of Christmas.”

This Christmas as we jokingly ponder who will receive presents from Santa based on our status on the naughty and nice list, we can take comfort that God’s Christmas Gift of the Righteous One – Jesus Christ – is for people on the naughty list and ‘only’ for those on the naughty list.  This is the good and glorious news of Advent and Christmas!

And so, rejoice my friends, God does not meet your sin with a lump of coal, twigs, salt, garlic, and onions.  He doesn’t even meet your sins with His wrath but meets you with the Righteous One – Jesus Chris – who was made to be sin on your behalf! 

Jesus is the hope of the world.  He is the dawn of righteousness over a world living in the night of sin.  He is the one who covers you in holiness, granting you forgiveness, and absorbing the wrath of God.  With Jesus, righteousness comes to earth; righteousness comes to you!  With Jesus, you have not coal, but righteousness.    

In the name of Jesus our righteousness: Amen.

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