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Monday, December 13, 2010

Let's Tell the Children About Christmas

O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth.  I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter hidden things, things from of old—what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us.  We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.--Psalm 78: 1-4 NIV
Christmas is the most heavily-merchandised season of the year, with desperate merchants vying for attention on every street corner.  It is tougher than ever before to remember the real meaning of Christmas.  Today, though, I'm not talking about your gift buying or gift giving habits.  I'm talking about how it all started.

Christmas is an arbitrarily-chosen day on which we Christians have gathered to celebrate the coming of Jesus to this world.  We don't know when He was born, actually, although some scholars have done calculations and research and have pointed to May or June as a more-likely date.  I suppose that if we actually knew, we might attribute more holy significance to a day on a calendar than we ought to.  Maybe that is why it was never written down.

So, it began as just any other day, and became (eventually) the most heavily merchandised day of the year.  Somewhere in the middle, and continuing on in the hearts of the faithful, it has always been about Jesus.

It's true, Christmas is about a gift.  It's about a truly spontaneous gift, not an expected one or a purchased one.  No one was watching for Jesus when He came, except a bewildered young couple who hadn't counted on sleeping in a stable that night.

The most important thing we should remember on Christmas (since, after all, it is more of a symbolic date than a real one) is why Christmas came.  That one date changed the world.  It reshaped cultures, raised leaders in hard times, and pulled millions of individuals from the brink of destruction brought on by their own sins.  We aren't just talking about a spontaneous gift here!  We are talking about the best thing that ever happened to the world, whether or not anyone recognizes it for what it is.

That brings me around to my title.  I think it's okay to see Christmas as an opportunity to teach generosity to children.  That is a great thing.  However, on the most fundamental level, Christmas does not teach us that lesson at all.  It is another story of sacrifice and humble obedience.  On Christmas day, the King of All was born into filth and poverty, to some imperfect people and a blinded, hateful world.  Why did He come?  To rescue the filthy, the poor, and the ungrateful.  Let us talk about that lesson of Christmas with the younger generation.  If they forget why Jesus came, trouble will come upon us all, but especially them.

Christmas is a fabulous opportunity for teaching children God's plan of salvation.  This is the time when they will be listening, and even secular radio stations will be playing traditional Christmas carols to confirm the lesson.  Contrary to some popular sentiments, it isn't "pushing our religion" on the children to freely share our beliefs and read them the story of Jesus' birth.  It's saying our part before the world comes in and tries to push their own, mostly merchandising or larcenist agendas.  If we truly believe in Jesus, we won't reinforce the teaching (by passive silence or wishy-washy statements) that Jesus is just a myth.  Now is the time to get back to the truth--the ugly truth about ourselves, and the hope-filled, joyous news that there is a cure for our sins!

I think I'll let Linus from Charles Schultz's Peanuts cartoon say the rest.  I'm always proud to hear him testify on national television every year--may we all be so brave!

Until next time, this is me, reminding you to stay savvy and speak out about Jesus!