Now that Christmastime has finally arrived (and golly, it seems like only yesterday the retail stores were putting up their festive Christmas decorations—on Labor Day weekend), we must remember one important truth about this special holiday: God is not Santa Claus.
Many people think of God the way He often is depicted in Renaissance art: an older man with a flowing white beard. The only thing missing is the red suit. Since God is pure spirit, those images are not correct, but we can’t blame medieval artists; they had to put something on that canvas or fresco, and a wise old man was the best they could come up with.
Many other people, influenced more by Joel Osteen than by Renaissance art, think of God as a cosmic vending machine. Or let’s really modernize the concept: they think of God as a cosmic Amazon Prime account. In other words, God is the provider of all the “stuff” we crave. God is the source of all our goodies—and we demand next-day delivery, too.
When we pray, do we praise God for who He is, and then thank Him for what he’s done, and then ask for forgiveness for what we’ve done? And then, only after we’ve made those prayers, do we request from Him what we need?
No, of course not. We skip the first three steps and go right to the gimme-gimme-gimme prayer.
I suspect the most often prayed prayer in the whole world is the Our Father. Christians of all denominations say that prayer, both individually and as groups. This means millions of times each day people offer up these words to God: “Thy will be done.”
The word “thy” is just an old-fashioned way of saying “your.” So, when we say these words during the Our Father prayer, we are turning to God and saying to Him, “I want your will to be done in my life, O Lord.”
Our mouths are reciting, “Thy will be done,” but for far too many of us, our hearts are really saying, “My will be done.” Our prayers to God have turned into letters to Santa Claus.
“Hi God. I’ve been a good boy this year. So, I want you to bring me a baseball bat, a Red Ryder BB gun, a zeppelin, a fire truck, a cowboy hat, and a Lexus SUV.”
Do you see what I mean? As mature adults and professed believers in God, we pray as if we’re in grade school writing letters to Santa Claus. That’s not who God is, and that’s not what He expects from us.
When we say the words “Thy will be done,” we’re supposed to mean it. If we are honest, we have to admit that once in a while God’s will is not the same as our will. I am using, of course, the definition of the phrase “once in a while” that means: an average of ten times per minute.
Our will is often short-sighted and selfish, influenced greatly by pride and a desire for pleasure and comfort. If you’ve read the Bible, you know that pride is the worst of all sins. Additionally, our journey through this life is expected to be somewhat difficult and uncomfortable at times. We’re not going to usher in God’s Kingdom and spread the Gospel message throughout the world by sitting on a couch and binge-watching shows on Netflix. (I think the warning about Netflix is somewhere in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians.)
Now that Christmastime has arrived, it’s time to remind ourselves what this holiday really means. “Santa Claus is coming to town!” is fine for children. But for us, it’s “Joy to the World, the Lord is come!” Jesus took on human flesh to bridge that huge gulf between holy God and sinful mankind. He died to pay the price for our sins, and He calls us to pick up our cross and follow Him.
In direct opposition to the main message of our culture, it’s not all about us. When we pray, “Thy will be done,” we cannot really mean, “My will be done.”
Don’t confuse God with Santa. God has plans for us that are infinitely greater than anything you’ll ever find in a stocking. All we need to do is seek His will, and then do it.