How fortunate are we that we serve a God who sits on a throne of grace? If you remember the movie ELF, you might remember Will Farrell’s title character getting very angry at the department store Santa where he worked, telling him he is not the “real” Santa, and that the chair made up for him to visit with eager holiday shopping children is a “throne of lies!” What a sad commentary on our religious system. Something many people are waking up to these days is that the system in which they’ve been employed, raised their families, gone to church and given their blood, sweat and treasure, is built on “lies”. The throne of Santa in many ways epitomizes that system.
What we have made of Christmas is the throne of lies. If Christmas is the best holiday of the year, then we have truly turned it into a cash cow, when everything is Christmas-ified. Even things that have nothing to do with Christmas, like outdoor power equipment, liquor beer and wine sales, palm trees, you name it, everything gets the Christmas treatment. All to make an extra dollar. The character of Santa, and his god-like persona is the kind of god who rewards kindness, just for the asking, but looks askance at evil, just this once, so that you can have a good holiday. He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake, but he doesn’t punish evil, but to grant a stocking full of coal. He is the kind of god people want when grace without cost. That’s what we call “cheap grace” and the feelings of forgiveness and gratitude last just as long at the packaging it comes in. The kindness of “good feelings” of Christmas wear off by December 26th, and all the “good will toward men” seems to fade with the last of the Christmas carols. This isn’t a throne of grace, but a throne of lies. Actually, it reveals the human heart as much as anything, since it demonstrates that we can all get along with each other when we expect something, but when it is unmet, or even satisfied, we go back to the business of looking out for ourselves as usual.
There has got to be a better way. If we can all respect the ideals of Christmas, the joy and the feeling of peace and well-being, then perhaps we need to seek a different throne. Instead of one built on presents and anticipation, perhaps we need to seek one built on Presence and realization. We can no longer rely on cheap forgiveness and “cheap grace”. What we hope for in Christmas is fulfilled in Christ. The “peace on earth and good will toward men” isn’t something found in a box under a tree, but in a man who died on a cross 2000 years ago. Peace of earth doesn’t come from a store, but from the atoning death of the One who came from heaven, lived among us, tempted in all ways that we are, and yet without sin. This One died in our place. He took the punishment and the wrath intended for you, and suffered it in Himself. So instead of wrath, as we deserve, we can receive peace and grace from the Father.
Don’t dare reduce the sacrifice that Jesus made for you. Don’t dare reduce the penalty for sin. God doesn’t wink at sin and say, “maybe just this once”. God hates sin. And He hates the one who sins. Be glad. Because if God was apathetic towards sinners, He wouldn’t care if you lived or died. But because God hates the sinner, he very much cares about what happens to them. This is why He sent His own Son to suffer and die in Your place, not because He had to. God is under no obligation to suffer for you. You are obligated under His justice to suffer and die for your own sins, and you will if you ignore His great salvation. But God in Christ chose the suffer the indignity of human flesh so that each of us could choose life in Him and through Him. This throne of Justice is awesome, and will strike you with intense fear, because even as a Christian, you know you are not holy enough to be in His presence. But for us, it is a throne of grace. Though we are terrified, He loves us. And that is a strange feeling.
Dear Father, as I come before you today, let me pray for my brothers and sisters today who still cling to the lies of this world. For a whom a veil has been pulled over their eyes, and they cannot see the truth for the lies, who have clung to cheap grace without consequence. Father, rather let us open our eyes to the reality of grace. It comes at great cost, at the dearest most treasured price, and shame on us if we do not keep this before our eyes, that we were bought at extreme cost, precious beyond anything this world can offer. This is the grace extended to us because our sins, our vile, filthy, worthless sins, spare us from that grief and everlasting punishment for which our sins deserve. Lord we do not deserve what You offer us, and I know that is the point of grace. Thank You Jesus for bearing that sins upon Your shoulders, so that we could live. In Your holy Name I pray, Amen.