“You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout. I’m telling you why… He’s making a list. He’s checking it twice. He’s gonna find out who’s naughty and nice… He knows if you’ve been bad or good. So be good for goodness sake.”

Really?

Don’t hear me wrong; I like Santa. He’s been the impetus for some wonderfully festive songs: ‘Jolly Old St. Nicolas,’ ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’ and ‘Up on the Housetop.’ He’s also dropped some nice goodies down my chimney on Christmas Eves past. It was Santa who got me my first bike, Major Matt Mason action figure, a red beanbag chair, Elton John’s Greatest Hits album and a yearly assortment of undergarments. Santa’s problem, however, is the conditional nature of his gifts. In order to welcome Santa into your life, you’ve got to avoid the pouting and crying and naughtiness. (Of course, we all know better. This is primarily theory and not practicality…but it is the theology of Santa nonetheless.)

So I’m glad it’s not just Santa coming to town. The greater anticipation of the season is Jesus coming to town. This Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent — the season of preparing for the birth of Christ. To begin our preparation for the coming of Jesus, we will decorate the Sanctuary this Sunday in a worship experience called “The Hanging of the Green.” During this service, (yes, during the worship service) we will adorn the Sanctuary together. We will sing advent songs and carols, place decorations in the Sanctuary and share the meaning of these decorations. It is a beautiful, meaningful service that you will not want to miss.

I love looking forward to Jesus’ coming a bit more than Santa. And here’s why: Jesus’ love and presence is unconditional. In fact, he comes ‘because’ and ‘in the midst of’ our crying and pouting and naughtiness. He doesn’t avoid us. He comes and walks alongside us. Jesus is coming! And, for the next four Sundays of Advent, we’ll be getting ready!

— Jim