Summary: Why should anyone be good? The answer is found in the celebration of the birth of Christ the Lord.
“When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.”
I confess my amusement at the annual antics of those benighted souls inveighing against Christmas. As regular as the sunrise these raucous harpies and harridans appear each Christmas to harangue the faithful and to spew their venomous invective against anything that might hint of worship of the Son of God. Employees working in the various retail businesses are instructed to avoid saying anything radical, such as “Merry Christmas.” Schools host winter festivals, but meticulously avoid any action that might even suggest approval of Christmas. One school in the States has students singing a song in praise of Allah, though the faculty is very careful not to permit the choir to sing a song that suggests praise to the Son of God. Politically motivated termagants twist and distort freedom to exclude even a hint of the religious foundations of the celebration of the birth of the Son of God.
As surely as smoke rises from the fire, our atheist friends are at it again. A group identified as American Atheists have rented a billboard inviting people to “Go ahead and skip church! Just be good for goodness’ sake.” Frankly, I’m always amused by billboard theology; and I’m especially amused by this particular effort—well, not the skipping church part. Candidly, if going to church is just a religious exercise and one fails to worship, then I do wonder why anyone would bother? If the act of attending a religious service is an effort to coerce God into accepting the individual, that is a futile effort. However, the final statement the atheists posted presents an impossibility—one cannot be “good for goodness sake.”
Jesus was approached on one occasion by a young man seeking comfort concerning his relationship to God. The young man was by his own admission religious. In the pericope Mark has recorded we read, “As [Jesus] was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone’” [MARK 10:17, 18].
Perhaps you recall the conclusion of that account. The young man insisted that he had kept all the Commandments of God. However, when challenged as to whether he was truly pursuing God with his whole heart or whether it was mostly show, “he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” [MARK 10:23b].