Parenting: What We Taught Our Kids at Christmas
I’m the out-spoken “Merry Christmas” guy in a world where it’s not politically correct. It’s my part of the fight. Though Season’s Greetings or Happy Holidays have all but replaced “Merry Christmas”, I totally want to play my role in slowing the growing commercialistic slide of this once religious, traditional season. After all, Christmas is central to our faith. And getting the meaning straight all starts at home.
Typical to this cultural shift away from the true meaning of Christmas, an amazingly authentic, life-size manger scene, once a seasonal landmark at a central intersection of our city, has disappeared and was apparently sold off. The property management of the shopping complex maintained that it cost too much money to put up, take down and store each year and that there wasn’t the appetite for it anymore. Now, when you drive by, where once an elaborate manger scene stood, you only see the cold and barren concrete fountain, shut off for winter, bleak and unvisited. The eerie emptiness of the square is reflective of the growing Christmas void in mankind’s heart.
Yet, never forget—though commercially, Santa Claus is King, cosmically, Jesus Christ is King!
Parents, the real fight against this shift is in our culture about the Christ of Christmas is what you impart to your kids. It’s what you teach in your home that matters. With the public skid away from the truths of Christmas, it is essential for Christian families to do a thorough job at passing on the time-tested, historical and Biblical realities of Christmas to their children and grandchildren. This void must be filled with its true meaning lest the emptiness of a family without faith—like a barren concrete fountain—invades your home. Here are the basic truths of Christmas as I see it—simple but central—that we tried to teach our children each year. It’s now my goal to reinforce it in our grandkids. Here’s my small gift to you this season.
CHRISTMAS TRUTH 1: GOD IS THE GREAT GIFT-GIVER
It all starts with the God who created us and loves us. As a matter of fact, God loves mankind so much that He GAVE. He reached out to His creation to re-establish relationship broken by our sin and selfishness. His greatest act of love was sending His only Son into this world. God gave us Jesus out of love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Teach your children that Jesus is the greatest gift ever given from a God who is really there and truly loves them. And this gift-giving God keeps on giving in so many ways to enrich our lives. “Every good and perfect gift is from above,” (James 1:17) and as we put our hope in God, He “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17). Unlike Santa, God has given His love to us whether we are naughty or nice. Tell your kids that God loves them a ton and His love is unconditional and unending!
CHRISTMAS TRUTH 2: JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON
Tell the full Jesus story. Read it in picture book. Act it out as they hit the middle years. Read it directly from the Bible when they are ready. Discuss the implications and what it means in the High School years. Remind your children every time you read or retell the Good News of his birth (words chosen by angels) that it’s not folklore, not just storybook, folk tradition or a fairytale. No, it really happened. It’s a true story and not fiction. Jesus entered history—a real flesh and blood, crying, helpless infant. Through Jesus, God became man and lived among us (John 1:14). Jesus was to be called Immanuel—promised in Isaiah7:14 and fulfilled in Matthew1:23. The name means “God with us.” Because Jesus willingly surrendered to the will of God the Father to come to earth, reach out to mankind and then die for us all, “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11). Christmas is fully about Christ. It’s in the name – C-H-R-I-S-T-mas. Teach your kids to remember that it’s Jesus birth—it’s HIS birthday. Sing Happy Birthday to Him. Keep trying to find ways to make and keep Christmas primarily about Christ.
CHRISTMAS TRUTH 3: IT’S BETTER TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE
The Apostle Paul quoted Jesus’ teaching as to why he was working hard to help others when he says “remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ ” (Acts 20:35). This is a core life principle that could anchor your child to a lifetime of joy through others-centered service. It’s fully what God wants. We give of ourselves—time, talent and treasure—to enhance the lives of others. Children need to learn this joy of giving. Ya, right! Try to convince a little one that Christmas is not about getting. They hear, “What do you want for Christmas” from so many sources. Ok, so they will receive their presents. But the sooner you can impress on them that Christmas is not about getting but about giving, their lives will be enriched and the Lord honored. God loves us and in turn, we love others. With four children on a limited budget, we too had to be creative. We helped the kids buy each other gifts. Giving became a joy as we learned to be thoughtful and purchase things we could afford but that the person would appreciate. We also, sponsored children in third world countries as a family—one for each of our kids. We’d set an extra plate or two at Christmas dinner for having lonely or isolated people over. Try adopting someone into your family. We did unofficially but permanently. Teach your children to look for someone in need of love and then to reach out and give—fully and freely. That’s God’s way.
CHRISTMAS TRUTH 4: IT STARTS AND ENDS WITH FAMILY
Christmas means family gatherings—sometimes too many of them. For some well-meaning people, Christmas is family. Wrong. Christmas is Jesus. Remember? But Christmas is done in families and there is no better place to practice what Jesus wants for the family than at Christmas. “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family [of believers]” (Galatians 6:10). Treat your family well both those near and those far. Each year, you have an opportunity to work at getting things right and keeping things right within your primary relationships. Jesus needs to be Lord at home first. Never hold a grudge into the New Year. Give the gift of forgiveness. Make the amends of an apology. The good news of Christmas as stated included “peace on earth and good will toward men”. Okay, so model to your kids that you will do whatever its takes to get relationships right – to bring peace and good will. Then, teach them to live their faith where it matters most—at home. “Therefore, [as a Christian family guided by the Lord], clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds [your family] all together in perfect unity”. (Colossians 3:12-14). Teach this every day but push to always “clear the air” at Christmas. Jesus said its in this way that people will see that you are His disciple—your love for one another (John 13:35).
CHRISTMAS TRUTH 5: THE GREATEST GIFT YOU CAN GIVE JESUS IS YOUR LIFE
We posed the following question to our children; if it’s Jesus’ birthday, then why are we the ones getting presents? Through the discussions that ensued over the years, as they got older, the truth bore more weight and significance. What present could we give Jesus? Scripture is clear. We are urged to “present our bodies to God” (Romans 12:1), to “seek His Kingdom first” (Matthew 6:33) and to “trust in the Lord with all our heart” (Proverbs 3:5). He desires us to “no longer live for ourselves but for Him” (2 Cor. 5:15). Urge your kids the following: “give Jesus your life as a thank you gift back to Him – you’ll never regret it. Though Jesus clearly requests you to surrender your life to Him, you must choose to make it so. It’s your decision – your gift back to Him.” We need to thank God for sending Jesus during our Christmas prayer times. We need to live this difference up close and personal as parents within our home. We are wisest when we are teaching our children about the importance of putting God first—believing that life goes best when you do.
Why not discuss as a family how well you are teaching these core truths of Christmas. I’d love to hear from you about what you try to teach your kids at Christmas and even how you attempt to do that. Leave your comments on our website at our “contact us” link. God bless you and your family this Christmas and into the new year!
© Dr. Dave Currie – November 2015
Feature image used with permission: © fotolia.com/image #70350016/Konstantin Yuganov.