Yesterday, being the Sunday before Christmas (if Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter, is the Sunday before Christmas “Noble Fir Sunday?”), we discussed The Christmas Gospel in our Sunday School class. We were actually discussing the True Gospel, studying John chapter 3, and, being it’s Christmas, my lovely and talented wife thought of playing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” (the Springsteen version), then comparing the 2.
If you’ve forgotten the song, here are some of the lyrics:
He’s making a list and checking it twice
Gonna find out who’s naughty or 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.
Most of the class (7th through 12th grade) could spot the obvious similarities as well as knew that John 3:16 leaves out any mention of lists or being good. However, there was a hesitancy – as there is in most of us – to completely accept the concept that our being “naughty or nice” has no bearing on the gift of eternal life. We are all so conditioned by the world (and by bad church teachings) to believe that what we receive is somehow tied to our performance – whether we “measure up” to God’s standards – that the Gospel seems too good to be true.
I told the class that the fact that none of us are good enough is the Good News; I already know that I’d be a regular on the naughty list, and only by the grace of God would I ever make the nice list. We know, however, that God doesn’t keep such lists. That’s good news, too. The only list I know of is the one in the Book of Life – which is based on grace, not by works (lest any of us should boast).
What was sad was that toward the end of the class my 10 year old daughter came into class, and after class broke into tears. You see, in her class, the teacher apparently didn’t know the gospel herself, and was teaching that they had to ask forgiveness for each and every sin they had committed in order to be forgiven. One child, from a non-Christian home, had prayed something like, “forgive me for all of my sins” and the teacher had told him, “that’s not good enough.” Can you believe this?
Thankfully my daughter heard the end of our lesson on God’s grace, and that Jesus is not like Santa Claus. However, she was truly traumatized by this heretical Sunday School lesson, and it took some more processing later on to really clear up the issues.
But what about the other children? What about the children from non-Christian families? What kind of a gospel do they now believe? This is one of the reasons that I have been very wary of letting my kids go to Sunday School – I can “fix” the problems I know about, but I can’t rehash every week’s lesson. But, that’s another issue for another time.
The Good News this Christmas is that for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him (so simple, isn’t it?) will not perish, but will have eternal life. No lists, no lumps of coal, no condemnation.