We are in the season of Advent, the time when we celebrate the coming of Jesus as a baby in Bethlehem and anticipate his second coming. To prepare for this season, we decorate our homes, bake goodies for neighbors, shop for the perfect gifts, and sing Christmas carols.
While this preparation is fun, we must (as Christian parents) prepare our hearts for the real reason we celebrate Christmas: the birth of Jesus. We must take time to reflect on why it matters that Jesus came to Earth, to read the Christmas narratives, and to pray (thanking God for His precious gift). We must also prepare ourselves to teach our children about why we celebrate Christmas.
Although the Christmas decorations are beautiful, I often see something missing. The lights, blow-up decorations, and eight tiny reindeer driven by a Santa are cute, but they do not signify the real reason that we should celebrate.
Recently, my husband Dr. David Pendergrass recorded a Christmas podcast, which I decided to use to frame this blog entry. While parents strive to buy their children just the right toys and check off all of the “necessary” things to make Christmas successful (baking, school Christmas party donations, teacher gifts, etc.), there is little time left to focus on the real reason we celebrate Christmas. So, let’s take a few moments to center ourselves and prepare to make this the best Christmas ever.
Here are a few tips to bring the focus back to the Birthday Boy, Jesus:
- Don’t Lie: For most children in America, the big focus of Christmas is on Santa Claus and what he will bring. Listen to what most adults ask children this time of year. It usually revolves around what Santa will bring them. We, as Christian parents, cannot allow Santa to be the focus of Christmas. Instead, we must bring the focus back to Jesus. Christmas is a Christian celebration, not a secular (non-religious) one. Tell your children the story of St. Nicholas, and that the story of Santa originated from him. Then talk about Jesus and why his birth matters. Don’t do anything to propagate a lie, but instead focus on the truth of Jesus.
- St. Nicholas: St. Nicholas was a Christian bishop who lived during the Fourth Century in Turkey. Check out (or purchase) a book about him. Tell stories about what he did, and how the myth of Santa came from this character, but always bring your children back to the real reason we celebrate: the birth of Jesus.
- Repeat: Our brain craves repetition. We learn through repetition. So, throughout the Advent season, repeat why we celebrate Christmas. Help your children learn the story so that it becomes part of their story. Why did Jesus come to Earth? God made the world and everything in it (including people). Throughout history, people broke God’s rules, so God came to Earth. Jesus (God the Son) came to Earth as a baby, who grew into a boy, who grew into a man. He came to show people who God is and to provide the way for them to have a relationship with God. Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins, and rose from the dead to show his power over death. Through Jesus, we can have a relationship with God and eternal life.
- Read the Stories: Before opening any presents on Christmas morning, read the Bible stories of Jesus’s birth in Luke 2:1-21 and Matthew 1:18-2:12. While your children (and even adults) may be anxious, this shows that we value Jesus more than stuff. It’s Jesus’s birthday, after all, so he should get the attention that a Birthday Boy deserves!
- Pause the Movie!: In Christmas movies, you will (almost) always hear a variation of these phrases: This is the real reason for Christmas! or Christmas is all about love and giving! (or family or something else) Disagree (aloud) with that notion. I always say, “That’s not true! Why do we celebrate Christmas?” Then I have my children fill in the blank with something like “It’s Jesus’s birthday!”
So, Christian parent, what will you choose to focus on this Christmas? Will you simply nod at the notion that Christmas is Jesus’s birthday and allow the secular traditions to overtake the holiday? Or will you make a concerted effort to place Jesus back where he belongs, at the center of the celebration?
Let’s make this the best Christmas ever as build new traditions that enable our families to celebrate the birth of our Savior!