Like most Americans this past week—in hopes of amping up my Christmas cheer—I began decorating my house for December 25th. Naturally, Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” was on the holiday decorating playlist. But as I listened to the music, I began to hear the lyrics differently. Although I didn’t grow up in a house that preached “Santa,” I never questioned the veracity of the lines:
He’s making a list, he’s checkin’ it twice,
He’s gonna find out whose naughty or nice
Santa Claus is coming to town
I never believed in Santa, but I found this man’s desire to “check his list” for the good kids and the bad kids absolutely plausible. Why wouldn’t the good kids deserve toys and the bad kids deserve coal? That’s called justice.
And now, twenty years later listening to the song, I began to wonder, “What if Jesus had a list?” Turns out He does.
“And anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” – Revelation 20:15, CSB
God’s got His own list of names, and the placement of your name determines the status of your eternal destination. But thankfully, Jesus manages His list a lot differently than Santa Claus. Santa knows if I’ve been bad or good, erasing my name if I don’t meet his standard. Jesus never erases my name because He met the standard for me and paid the price for my own shortcomings.
“In the same way, the one who conquers will be dressed in white clothes, and I will never erase his name from the book of life but will acknowledge his name before my Father and before his angels.” – Revelation 3:5, CSB.
I can confidently say that my name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life—not because of anything that I’ve done, but because I have trusted in the Lamb that was slain for me. I laugh at the thought that I could ever scribble my worn, sinful name onto His holy list.
And yet sometimes in our small groups, we unintentionally preach perfectionism. At times, we view God as the Big Man Upstairs who’s checking His list, separating the rule followers from the rule breakers. Hear the accusation in this holiday tune:
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
You better be good for goodness’ sake
Can you imagine if Jesus were more like Santa? What if He’s looking down from heaven, waiting to cross our names off His list when we sin? This Christmas, as group leaders we have the opportunity to seriously question some of the core beliefs we have about God—and how we communicate them to our group members. Do we really preach grace? Do we subconsciously think God expects perfection? Do we think God is keeping score? How can we better preach the God of second chances and erasers?
How much more enriched would our small groups be if we reminded our group members of the freedom that is imperfection? Of the freedom that is grace? We can remind them of the spotless Lamb who came down to save us from ourselves.
And finally, when we no longer live aiming for perfection, we can aim a little higher. Jesus knows our every thought and move. Jesus “knows if we’ve been bad or good,” but by His grace, we are good for His sake—not goodness’ sake.
Caroline Case is a proud Nashville transplant from Naples, Florida, who serves as the Production Editor for Lifeway’s SmallGroup.com and Discipleship in Context teams. Caroline has a Bachelor of Communication from Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, FL. She is pursuing her Master of Arts in English at Belmont University in Nashville, where she will go on to pursue her doctorate and teach.