Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2003
A Picture of God
[Title] A Picture of God
[Texts] Matthew 7:7-11, 19:16-22, 20:1-16; Luke 15:11-32; Isaiah 40; Psalm 9:8, 96:10,13; 98:9; Acts 17:31; Romans 3:6; Genesis 4:1-7; Exodus 3:1-8; Job 38-41; Jonah 4
[Use] December 27, 2003
"Little Helpers Aren't Enough: Santa Needs an Image Expert," reads the headline in the New York Times' December 21 article. "Santa Claus isn't exactly dead. But, from a public-relations point of view, Santa, as the
big-hearted symbol of Christmas spirit, pine-scented purveyor of presents,
adjudicator of both naughty and nice, is having a pretty rough year."
From negative portrayals in Hollywood to a Pennsylvania bank robber in his signature fur-trimmed red suit, Santa's image has been suffering this season. And a recent study of children visiting two Santas at large shopping malls near New York City found 95% of them "visibly indifferent to Santa."
"Stephen Nissenbaum, a professor of history at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and author of 'The Battle for Christmas' (Knopf, 1996) said that Santa's current image problem may reflect the tendency of
nostalgia to paint rosier pictures.
"'Every generation has sort of imagined that its own Christmas is inauthentic and that the previous generation's Christmas was somehow more authentic,' he said." 
God's image, too, has at times suffered, both at the hands of unbelievers and believers. Even parts of the Old Testament sometimes seem to present a God who is angry, distant, and impersonal.
The book of Jonah, however, has shown us a different picture this quarter. It shows us a God who is infinitely loving, forgiving, and personal. God is involved and approachable, touching humanity repeatedly and guiding
them, whether by way of a massive fish or by the errant, fish-swallowed messenger himself. God allows people to ask questions and then to make their own decisions.
As we wrap up our study of Jonah this quarter, we see that the picture of God presented in the book is ultimately quite familiar: loving, forgiving, guiding and allowing questions, but more importantly, doing so on a personal, involved level. It's the picture of Jesus.