On Wednesday, former NFL player and lead pastor of Transformation Church Derwin Gray shared a clip from a recent sermon on Twitter, describing what he believes to be a problem for many Christians today: Santa Claus theology.
As someone who played in the NFL for six years, holds a Doctor of Ministry degree, and who founded and pastors a growing church in Indian Land, SC, Gray is someone who knows how to perform at a high level. However, Gray shared with his church in a December 12 sermon that the Christian life isn’t about how well you can perform.
During his sermon, Gray led the congregation in a rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” singing, “You better watch out; you better not cry. You better not pout; I’m telling you why. Santa Claus is coming to town.”
As the congregation chimed in, applause broke out, which led Gray to say, “Thank you! You didn’t leave me hanging!”
“You’re like, ‘Why are you singing that song,’” Gray went on to say. “Here’s why: because that’s the theology that everybody lives by. We think God is Santa Claus, and he’s going, ‘You’ve been naughty. You’ve been nice. Have you done enough for me to give you the presents that you want? I’m watching you all the time, waiting for you to mess up, because, you know, if you’ve been naughty, you’re getting a lump of coal. If you’ve been nice, you’re going to get exactly what you want.’”
“And so what we do is we have Santa Claus theology, which is a theology of performance,” Gray continued. “It’s a theology that says, ‘Well, God, if I’m good enough, I won’t get a lump of coal in my situation, in my circumstances, and all my dreams will come true.”
“It’s a theology—you ready?—of frustration. It’s a theology of exhaustion. Because you can never satisfy Santa Claus,” Gray said.
“Instead of a Santa Claus, performance-based theology, I’ve got some really good news. Jesus, Israel’s Messiah…the eternal Son of God along with the Father and the Spirit, came to earth in the womb of a teenage girl in Bethlehem. And here’s why,” Gray said. “Because we’re all naughty, and we’re all not nice. And all of us fall short of the glory of God. That’s why He came.”
In sharing the clip to Twitter, Gray said, “So many of us live by a Santa Claus theology, believing that God will love, accept, and bless us if we are good enough. Jesus came because we are naughty and not good enough. Life in God’s Kingdom, [experiencing] God’s love is a free gift.”
Watch Derwin Gray’s full sermon below.