Better Watch Out

Watch Out, Or You’ll Be On The Naughty List

Being ten years younger than myself, Ed, my old neighbor from Saskatchewan, cannot believe there was life before television. I grew up when the world was changing from listening to the radio to watching the television. Many of the early television shows had been successful radio programs. It was an impressive time when people could see with the television screen the folks they had only known by their distinctive voices on the radio.

In 1952, I was six years old, and most everyone knew the voice of Gene Autry, the singing cowboy, on the radio. From the early 1930s to the mid-1950’s, Gene Autry was a big success in radio, television and record recordings. He appeared in 93 movies, 91 television productions. He had nine gold records and one platinum record as a singer.

The interesting thing about Gene Autry was not that he had been a cowboy on his father’s Texas ranch; but as a young man also worked as a telegraph operator in the 1920s. He also loved playing his guitar and singing. One slow evening at work he was playing his guitar and singing when a customer came in to send a telegraph. He told Autry not to stop singing but to finish his song. The costumer was the famous comedian/speaker, Will Rogers, of that time, who told Autry that he had a good voice and that he should go to New York and see about singing on the radio. That encouragement resulted in Gene Autry going to New York where his career began.

I said to Ed that it sure was good that Will Rogers found Gene Autry at work doing what he loved, playing the guitar and singing. He might have found Autry asleep, or grumpy, or complaining. It is hard to encourage people when we don’t understand what they’re doing or what they love doing. It is easy to encourage people who are good at what they are doing.

Gene Autry recorded the song, ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town,’ and it became a great hit for him. It is a song that parents may use as a warning that nice behavior is the right way to act, to have good gifts coming their children’s way at Christmas.  The song is clear about what is naughty, “Better watch out, better not cry, better not pout because Santa Claus is coming to town.” The song makes it clear there is a list that Santa keeps, and you are either on the nice side or the naughty side. Children do often act much nicer as Christmas draws near, because nice does seem to result in better presents under the tree.

As Christians, we know it is God who sees us when we are sleeping and when we are awake. He knows if we have been good or bad and calls us to look at our lives as a blend of both naughty and nice. He sees right into our hearts, and minds, and understands our motives for what we do. He understands the power of our sinful nature. God sent his Son Jesus Christ that we might claim his gift for all. His gift is the forgiveness of our sins, through faith in Christ for our recurring naughtiness.

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