Someone is Watching You:
What do God, Santa Claus and the NSA have in common? They are all watching you...right...now. Does that creep you out a bit? I know I find it to be a little bit creepy. It used to be that someone who thought they were being watched was considered paranoid. Now we know it is just the price we pay if we want to go to heaven, to get good Christmas presents or to continue our 'way of life'. Somebody has to watch, after all, to keep us all in line.
Honestly, I might not mind all that surveillance if it lead to a world where people were kinder and gentler to one another, where they treated their neighbors as they wished to be treated themselves. Sadly, when you turn on the television you will find that criminals seem to be oblivious to the fact that the camera is recording their misdeeds. Even though they know that Santa Claus is watching, children still manage to be naughty. The Elf on the Shelf might see what goes on at home, but he is stuck on that shelf and can't be everywhere. Cameras, North Pole magic and elven spies will never stand in the way of a determined felon seeking a big haul or a sneaky child going after a forbidden cookie.
Perhaps that is the great fallacy behind the idea that God lives in heaven where is he is watching and recording everything we do 'down here' until the final judgment. The idea that our life is being recorded so that one day we can pay for our crimes is the stuff of Sunday school nightmares. But the message of Christmas is not that God is watching us and waiting catch us in a trap for when he comes back. Christmas is the story of a God who is not content to wile away his time in heaven while we are struggling on our own down here.
As he introduces the nativity story, Matthew tells us that “All of this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” - which means 'God with us'”. (Matt 1:22-23) The birth of Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise that God is among us, yearning to save us from ourselves. We can't say that about the man behind the security monitors at the mall or the Elf on the Shelf. God isn't looking to keep us from getting what we want or to punish us for our wrongs. God is looking to meet us where we are, to turn us from our wrongdoing and to lead us to a life of repentance. Jesus Christ is God's promise that we are not abandoned to ourselves and left to our own ends. God is with us, with us in the flesh. So while I can't vouch for the motives of Santa, that Elf or the men in black, I can say this: when I hear that 'God is watching me' I hear it with joy.
God is not content to watch us from afar by peering down through some sort of divine telescope. Instead, he came to us in the form of Jesus Christ so that he could live among us and suffer for us. The Holy Spirit testifies that he is with us now and forever. And when we make the proclamation that he will come again, we share our hope that one day we will again walk with him in the fullness of the Kingdom of God. God is not merely a watcher or bystander. In celebrating Christmas we proclaim this intimate connection we have with God. What a joy it is to celebrate the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ. Surely God is with us today and always.