Good Enough?

Good Enough?

Jules Badger shares a personal reflection on Christmas in the 1980s and parallels her childlike view of Santa with the reality of her relationship with Jesus Christ.

I grew up in the 1980s, which means my earliest and best memories of Christmas gifts include roller skates and Barbie dolls. Christmas 2023 is feeling a lot like the 1980s all over again, with the return of Barbie and the roller-skating renaissance of recent years. I’m certainly not averse to either—far from it. Barbie in the 1980s has since been elevated from the doll responsible for eating disorders to a larger-than-life twenty-first century feminist icon—‘sleigh’ the patriarchy! And not only am I at an age where I don’t need extendable skates that allow for my growing feet anymore, but roller skates now come in leopard print. It’s like the 80s, only better!

What I remember most about Christmas from my childhood, though, is going to visit Santa. I’m not sure if that’s because of the photographic proof seared into my brain of my sisters and I trying to look cute but one of us inevitably crying, or actual memories. But I do remember it was a big deal. First, you had to decide what you would ask for (just one thing); second be brave enough to sit on Santa’s knee (stranger danger); and finally, have the courage to voice your request (without crying). The inevitable question from the big man in red, though, was always: ‘Have you been a good girl?’ I swear that question brought tears to my eyes, had I been a good girl? My young mind was tortured as I tried to review my behaviour. Had I been good enough, or was I too naughty to get the gift I had asked Santa for? And was being nice for the rest of December, at least, enough niceness? Enough goodness? Or had I left it all far too late?

Thankfully, my parents took it upon themselves to be the ones who gave the gifts we most wanted. So while Santa filled our stockings with chocolate and trinkets, Mum and Dad got the credit for the big-ticket items we really wanted. It didn’t take me long to figure out that being a good girl had very little to do with Christmas. Mum and Dad already knew my capacity for naughtiness, and yet they still lavished gifts on me. Stereotypical Barbie made way for Tropical Barbie and my extendable skates eventually got bounced for real boot-skates. Sitting on Santa’s lap quickly lost its appeal—what a waste of time! I was better off just tidying my room.

However, when Mum became a Christian, everything changed. Jesus entered our Christmas for the first time. I remember Mum making a nifty nativity set out of wooden clothes pegs. She handstitched all the clothes and crowns, and the shepherds had pipe cleaner crooks. She used a black vivid marker to carefully draw faces on the clothes peg shepherds, wise men, and Mary and Joseph. Baby Jesus was a real (plastic) baby, complete with his own (plastic) crib—stolen from Homemaker Barbie maybe? But Jesus certainly stood out from the rest—I just knew there was something special about that little plastic baby.

It would be a few decades before I would even begin to grasp just how special Jesus is. But what I do know is that being good enough for Santa to bring us gifts is the exact opposite of what Jesus offers. Santa may be making his list and checking it twice, deciding who is naughty or nice, who is in and who is out, but Jesus isn’t. Really—he’s just not! He doesn’t care if you are good or bad. Jesus offers us himself—a gift for those who haven’t been good. Jesus takes everyone who is unworthy, left out, not good enough, rejected, misunderstood, falsely accused and says come. Jesus also welcomes the proud bigot, the unwavering misogynist, the hateful homophobic, the corrupt politician and the prolific philanderer—anyone who receives the gift he offers. And what he offers has nothing to do with us or our goodness, and everything to do with God and his goodness. ‘But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). It’s not a one-time-only gift that Jesus offers, either. He’s the gift that keeps on giving! When we receive Christ, we are always good enough in his eyes. ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God’ (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Mum’s clothes-peg nativity set has since been passed on to my younger sister and her family and has pride of place under their Christmas tree every year. It was more than good enough to hold and carry the Christmas story from one generation to the next. (Plastic) baby Jesus is still at the heart of the story. We don’t need to sit on Santa’s lap to prove we are good enough to receive a gift—my parents taught me that. ‘If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him’ (Matthew 7:11). And Jesus continues to confirm this simple, life-changing truth. The good gift of Christ is ours for the taking—any day of the year!

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