advent lettering

O Come All Ye Faithful


Today's Reading

Acts 9:1-22; Philippians 3:4-8

You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout, I’m telling you why. Santa Claus is coming to town.

Every year, amidst the various Christmas songs, we hear this classic one. The jingle is both a celebration and a warning to children, and it is a tool for some parents to keep their little ones relatively well-behaved as the Christmas season approaches. At the heart of the tune is a story of people whose lives are measured by their adherence to a set of rules…a law if you will. Be nice, and you will get presents. Be bad, and you will get nothing.

Can you imagine how Saul of Tarsus would have loved this song? He would have been amazing at keeping the Santa Claus code. In fact, he would have been warning other children to straighten up their behavior, or he would have written letters to Santa to let him know how other children were being naughty. Yes, Saul was that child.

As Saul walked along the road to Damascus, he believed in his heart of hearts that his righteousness provided for him a special responsibility from God to hold others accountable to the Law. His job was clear. He sought to bring order among those rabble-rousing Christ followers—clearly rebels worshiping a false god.

This work to rid the world of Christians wasn’t an isolated incident. It was a deep part of his DNA. He was ruthless at keeping the Law, and he reflected on that fact in his letter to the Philippians. He claimed to be a Hebrew of Hebrews, zealous for the Law, and faultless in regard to legalistic righteousness. And because of this devotion to the code, he had status and notoriety.

Yet his world changed along the road. Go back to the text in Acts, and see the progression of what happens to Saul. At the beginning of the chapter, he is threatening, he is obtaining letters, and he is persecuting the church.

Suddenly, the script was flipped. A light appears, and Jesus speaks. Without warning, Saul became passive, and the Lord took the active role. To demonstrate the point even more, Saul doesn’t say a word in the passage. Even when Ananias visits him, all we read are the words from him, not Saul. Saul almost becomes a bystander at this point. There is nothing that he is bringing to the table in the midst of his salvation.

And isn’t this the point? Jesus burst into Saul’s life and upended it, and all that Saul could do was listen and believe. In this moment, Saul discovered a life he could never have imagined. Within no time, all of the pieces of his worldview came together. Later on in his ministry, he even began going by a different name to almost signify the drastic change. The old man died, and a new man—Paul—took his place.

The change came at that moment when he saw Jesus for the first time.

Saul had spent his whole life stacking up his actions against the requirements to the Law, comparing himself to everyone else, and believing that his righteousness brought him salvation.

Does this sound like you? Are you busy compiling mental lists to demonstrate your status? Do you believe that if you have enough friends, wealth, possessions, talent, or titles, then somehow you are special and therefore worthy of being called a child of God?

Saul thought that way, but that changed when he met Jesus. You see how Saul didn’t begin arguing with Jesus on the road? He didn’t bring out his scrapbook of accomplishments or pull up his 401K. He didn’t turn to his contact list of important friends or show his followers on Instagram. He didn’t even pull out his letters from the high priest!

He only saw and listened to Jesus. That’s it. Nothing else.

The same goes for each one of us. Just like Saul, we need to see the glory of Jesus and be in awe of who He is and recognize who we are. It is Jesus’ resume, not our own, that establishes our identity. Without Him, we are stumbling around in the darkness. But with Him, we see the light.

Have you looked and listened to Jesus? Let me ask this again—have you really looked and listened to Him? When you do, you are changed. When you surrender yourself to Him, He changes everything. What a wonderful gift to receive this Christmas!

Or maybe you did meet Jesus along the road when you were younger, and your life was changed. Have you gone back to singing that old tune, thinking that the Santa Claus code of righteousness is what makes you ok?

Paul would tell us otherwise. “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” (Phil. 3:7)

This Christmas season, let us all commit to laying down our symbols of status, whatever those may be, at the foot of the manger and adore our Savior, Christ the Lord.

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