It is difficult to separate the Christian traditions of Christmas these days from the secular ones. Frosty and Rudolph follow Silent Night on Christmas music playlists. The Hallmark Channel warms our hearts with romantic love stories while Linus quotes from the Gospel of Luke. Santas and Nutcrackers decorate the malls, but one must make an effort to notice where crèches are displayed.
Please understand that I am not against secular expressions of Christmas. However, it is my hope that our children will grow up knowing the true reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place. And for this to happen, we need to be intentional when we talk about Christmas and celebrate our seasonal Christian traditions with our children.
Sometimes it appears that children are more interested in secular Christmas traditions than they are in religious ones. I believe that this is only because the secular images are what they are exposed to the most. So as parents, and as congregations, I encourage you to expose your children to the true meaning of Christmas as often as you can.
In the season of Advent, as we prepare our hearts and minds for the birth of the Christ child, I wonder if we should take this season of preparation a step further. I wonder if we could spend the four weeks before Christmas preparing our children for receiving the Baby Jesus into their hearts — by allowing ourselves to sing (and teach) our traditional carols, by displaying (and playing with) crèches as often as we are able, by decorating Jesse trees and shopping together for gifts and seasonal foods for those who would otherwise go without on Christmas Day (and beyond). These are just a few ways to help children begin to understand that Christmas is more about giving to others and living in the way of Jesus. At the same time, let’s embrace our cultural Christmas and help our children identify the Christ-like behaviors of Frosty and Rudolph. Let’s model for them our generosity for those in need when we pass by the Salvation Army bell ringer and toy collection boxes. Let’s take advantage of our congregations’ Advent activities, or even better, celebrate our own Advent traditions at home. (There are several websites with wonderful suggestions for families for you to Google. Two of my favorites are here and here.)
By shifting our focus, i.e. by intentionally avoiding being drawn into our culture’s definitions of Christmas, and by creating and practicing our Christian traditions with children while they are young, we can help to raise a generation of faith-filled followers of the Newborn Babe, who celebrate the true meaning of Christmas all year, as well as throughout their lives.
May the blessings of this season be with you, and with the children around you!
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