Quick Hits (12/23/08), Christmas Edition

Here are some barely edited thoughts related in way or another to Christmas…

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poinsettias1Christmas Past

If you’ve not yet read Amy Johnson’s testimony regarding the hardships her family endured (and someone you know is probably enduring) at this time of year, you need to. It’s up at Bixby’s place, and it provides a convicting and helpful push against our default selfishness which can grow even stronger at Christmas time. I admit that empathy isn’t my strong suit. I needed that.

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“To such a world as this…”

Speaking of, “if you’ve not yet read” this, be sure to give a look at Eric J. Alexander’s hymn What Manner of Love at ChurchWorksMedia.com. The first verse provides rich thoughts on the incarnation.

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Santa is the Least of Our Worries

I appreciated a common sense statement by Julie Herbster over at Sharper Iron. Speaking of the strong reaction many believers have against all things Santa Claus, she said,

“IMO, Santa Claus presents far less of a danger to Christian families than the overall spirit of materialism that is often excused and even encouraged at this time of year even in the most “anti-Santa Claus” families.”

Bingo! I agree. At the risk of inviting criticism for my blatant worldliness, I’ll go even further. I think the amount of angst many Christians have over things like Santa Claus, Easter eggs, and trick-or-treating is generally wasted energy. We need to realize that our biggest problem—and our kids’ biggest problem—is not a man in a red suit (neither of them), jelly beans, or chocolate. Our worst enemy is our own flesh! The problem is “in here,” not “out there.” Yet, I’ve met parents who seemed to think they were doing a great job discipling their children because they worked hard to pass on these and other “phobias.” Not so.

The truth is, I’ve not yet met a kid who abandoned the faith because his parents used Santa Claus wrapping paper or had an Easter egg hunt. I have, however, run into some who grew up in a “Rudolph-free zone,” yet have no heart for spiritual things. My opinion? We should save our energy for things of eternal consequence. Fight your own flesh, fight your kids’ flesh, and teach them how to take up the battle themselves. Even more importantly, teach them that Christianity is about a satisfying and joyful relationship with Christ, not merely a strange list of cultural taboos.

In the meantime, if someone shows up to your family reunion in a Santa suit, don’t head for the door, cover your kids eyes, or launch into a lecture. (Aside: When you do so, the message you’re sending your lost father-in-law is that you’re peculiar—and not in the King James sense of the word!) Just smile graciously, put your kid on Santa’s lap, and take a picture. Thank “Santa” for caring. Then go home, enjoy the memory, and teach your little one about the God who took on flesh to be our Savior.

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Fighting the Gimmes

In that same thread at Sharper Iron, my friend Diane Heeney asked what we do to keep our children from being overcome by “the gimmes”? Great question! Though my kids have the same flesh as their parents, we do a few things that not only make Christmas more enjoyable, but teach some spiritual lessons. Here’s some food for thought (and I’d welcome other ideas from readers):

  • As part of our midweek children’s program (we use Buckaroo Bible Club, but the idea could be used with any program), TCBC rewards our children for their memorization and such with a “Buckaroo store” just before Christmas. We have people “bargain hunt” all year, then allow the kids to go Christmas shopping for their families. Our teens help the younger children, and we even provide a gift-wrapping service. The result is tremendous. My children are for more excited about what they’re giving each year than what they’re getting. Usually, anyway. :)
  • Each Saturday before Easter, we take our church children caroling to an area nursing home. It’s a small thing, but it reminds our children (a) of the need to communicate the gospel to the lost, and (b) that many are alone all the time, including at Christmas, and that we need to minister to them.
  • Try to make Christmas morning a time of rejoicing, not merely of toy-lust. Get up slowly (at least compared to the “pre-dawn-jump-on-mom-and-dad” ritual of my childhood). Have a family breakfast—yes, before you open presents. Read Scripture, sing a Christmas hymn, and pray together. Have everybody get out of their pajamas. (You’ll thank me when you get your Christmas pictures.) The point is, relax. If you don’ t get to the presents until after lunch, your kids (and you!) will be fine. If you really want to make Christmas about the Lord Jesus, demonstrate that desire by the way you manage the day.
  • The unwrapping of presents at our house is an intentional, peaceful, and S-L-O-W process. It usually lasts for several days, actually, and not because we buy so many gifts. We don’t. What we do, however, is open one present at a time. Everyone enjoys watching. After opening a present, we stop and say thank you. We might chat about the present, why we chose it, etc. If it’s a toy, we play with it for a while, go get some coffee, whatever. We’ll get back to the gifts in a bit. The point is, what we don’t do is a have an unwrapping “free-for-all.” One of my pet peeves is watching children open a present, set it aside, ask for another, then “repeat.” They don’t know who gave it to them, nor do they care. The entire gift-opening time (usually about 5 minutes) is like watching piranhas devour fresh meat. Terrible. Don’t do that. Slow down. Express your gratitude. Go do a puzzle or something, then come back for more presents later. That’s how we do it, anyway, and we love it.

Have a joyful, restful, gospel-focused Christmas, friends. And thanks for reading! I hope that MTC has helped point you Christ-ward!

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2 Responses

  1. Thanks, Bro. Chris. I really like the idea of determining to slow the day down. We have not had the “feeding frenzy” you describe at our house (and we do make it a point to thank the giver), but I have been present during such a display of kinder-lust, and I share your opinion. Ick. We had actually determined our kids would get “one nice gift” this year, plus the extraneous stocking stuffers..but that sorta imploded, with a little help from friends and family. But, I’m not sure that “getting stuff” is the problem so much as what you mentioned…the attitude with which it is possessed. I know people who have a great abundance, but are open-handed and not at all materialistic–and I know still others who have very little but are possessive and seek security in what they can hold in their hands. These are heart issues…

    Just to mention, we have done a similar “store” idea with our church kids, but we do it in the form of an auction…a little novel twist…the kids exchange their points, accumulated all year, for “bucks” for the auction.

    Btw, did you mean to say you go caroling each Saturday before Easter? Either way, I like the idea. =) Easter is an excellent time to go caroling. As a hymn text I posted on my site observes, “Christmas shines with Easter glory, glory of eternity.”

    Happy gluten-free Christmas!
    Diane

  2. Right on with the Santa thought. But the bombardment of Santa is enough to make one reconsider the danger of Santa. I say this only because of an experience I just had in nursery this past Sunday. Granted, I have 2-3 year olds, so the results may not be exactly stellar. But I held up a coloring page of baby Jesus and asked the kids, “Is Christmas all about Santa or Jesus?” Of the three that answered, two said Santa – and one was the worship leaders kid! I know the parents are teaching them the truth at home, but even at two Santa is a reality more than Jesus. I’m not saying we should be afraid of Santa, but we should put that much more effort in what you said – teaching them the truth.
    Besides, it is kind of mean to let your kids believe in a just, loving, omniscient, nearly omnipresent being and then, when they get older, tell them that he isn’t real! :)
    Merry Christmas!

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