The LOGOS Ministry
A Christmas tale just perfect for today:
Late one Christmas Eve, I sank back, tired but content, into my easy chair. The kids were in bed, the gifts were wrapped, the milk and cookies waited by the fireplace for Santa. As I sat back admiring the tree with its decorations, I couldn’t help feeling that something important was missing. It wasn’t long before the tiny twinkling tree lights lulled me to sleep.
I don’t know how long I slept, but all of a sudden I knew that I wasn’t alone. I opened my eyes, and you can imagine my surprise when I saw Santa Claus himself standing next to my Christmas tree. He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot just as the poem described him, but he was not the “jolly old elf” of Christmas legend. The man who stood before me looked sad and disappointed, and there were tears in his eyes.
“Santa, what’s wrong?” I asked, “Why are you crying?”
“It’s the children,” Santa replied sadly.
“But Santa, the children love you,” I said.
“Oh, I know they love me, and they love the gifts I bring them,” Santa said, “but the children of today seem to have somehow missed out on the true spirit of Christmas. It’s not their fault. It’s just that the adults, many of them not having been taught themselves, have forgotten to teach the children.”
“Teach them what?” I asked.
Santa’s kind old face became soft, more gentle. His eyes began to shine with something more than tears. He spoke softly, “Teach the children the true meaning of Christmas. Teach them that the part of Christmas we can see, hear, and touch is much more than meets the eye. Teach them the symbolism behind the customs and traditions of Christmas which we now observe. Teach them what it is they truly represent.”
Santa reached into his bag and pulled out a tiny Christmas tree and set it on my mantle. “Teach them about the Christmas tree. Green is the second color of Christmas. The stately evergreen, with its unchanging color, represents the hope of eternal life in Jesus. Its needles point heavenward as a reminder that mankind’s thoughts should turn heavenward as well.”
Santa reached into his bag again and pulled out a shiny star and placed it at the top of the small tree. “The star was the heavenly sign of promise. God promised a Savior for the world and the star was the sign of the fulfillment of that promise on the night that Jesus Christ was born. Teach the children that God always fulfills His promises, and that wise men still seek Him.”
“Red,” said Santa, “is the first color of Christmas.” “He pulled forth a red ornament for the tiny tree. Red is deep, intense, vivid. It is the color of the life-giving blood that flows through our veins. It is the symbol of God’s greatest gift. Teach the children that Christ gave his life and shed his blood for them that they might have eternal life. When they see the color red, it should remind them of that most wonderful gift.”
Santa found a silver bell in his pack and placed it on the tree. “Just as lost sheep are guided to safety by the sound of the bell, it continues to ring today for all to be guided to the fold. Teach the children to follow the true Shepherd, who gave His life for the sheep.”
Santa placed a candle on the mantle and lit it. The soft glow from its one tiny flame brightened the room. “The glow of the candle represents how people can show their thanks for the gift of God’s son that Christmas Eve long ago. Teach the children to follow in Christ’s foot steps…to go about doing good. Teach them to let their light so shine before people that all may see it and glorify God. This is what is symbolized when the twinkle lights shine on the tree like hundreds of bright, shining candles, each of them representing one of God’s precious children, their light shining for all to see.”
Again Santa reached into his bag and this time he brought forth a tiny red and white striped cane. As he hung it on the tree he spoke softly. “The candy cane is a stick of hard white candy. White to symbolize the virgin birth and sinless nature of Jesus, and hard to symbolize the Solid Rock the foundation of the church, and the firmness of God’s promises. The candy cane is in the form of a “J” to represent the precious name of Jesus, who came to earth. It also represents the Good Shepherd’s crook, which He uses to reach down into the ditches of the world to lift out the fallen lambs who like all sheep, have gone astray. The original candy cane had three small red stripes, which are the stripes of the scourging Jesus received by which we are healed, and a large red stripe that represents the shed blood of Jesus, so that we can have the promise of eternal life.
“Teach these things to the children.”
Santa brought out a beautiful wreath made of fresh, fragrant greenery tied with a bright red bow. “The bow reminds us of the bond of perfection, which is love. The wreath embodies all the good things about Christmas for those with eyes to see and hearts to understand. It contains the colors of red and green and the heaven-turned needles of the evergreen. The bow tells the story of good will towards all and its color reminds us of Christ’s sacrifice. Even its very shape is symbolic, representing eternity and the eternal nature of Christ’s love. It is a circle, without beginning and without end. These are the things you must teach the children.”
I asked, “But where does that leave you, Santa?”
The tears gone now from his eyes, a smile broke over Santa’s face. “Why bless you, my dear,” he laughed, “I’m only a symbol myself. I represent the spirit of family fun and the joy of giving and receiving. If the children are taught these other things, there is no danger that I’ll ever be forgotten.”
“I think I’m beginning to understand.”
“That’s why I came,” said Santa. “You’re an adult. If you don’t teach the children these things, then who will?”
I amused myself recently by giving some of my co-workers a Christmas I.Q. test. All of us are involved in children’s ministry and ought to have aced this simple quiz. But it wasn’t so simple after all, for the instructions to the quiz included answering “according to Scripture”.
The celebration of Christmas is filled with all kinds of mis-information about what really happened the night Jesus was born. Do you really know the truth about Christmas? How many of these questions can you answer, according to Scripture?
As long as Christmas has been celebrated, it has been on December 25.
Jesus was delivered in a:
A manger is a:
a) Stable for domestic animals
b) Wooden hay storage bin
c) Feeding trough
Which animals does the Bible say were present at Jesus’ birth?
a) Cows, sheep, goats
b) Cows, donkeys, sheep
c) Sheep and goats only
d) Miscellaneous barnyard animals
e) Lions, tigers, elephants
f) None of the above
How many angels spoke to the shepherds?
c) A “multitude”
d) None of the above
What “sign” did the angels tell the shepherds to look for?
a) “This way to the baby Jesus”
b) A star over Bethlehem
c) A baby that doesn’t cry
d) A house with a Christmas tree
e) A baby in a stable
f) None of the above
How many wise men came to see Jesus?
Invite your family to take the Christmas quiz at: http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/pritchard/11623609/
Let this activity spark a lively discussion about the birth of Jesus—and may it enrich your Christmas celebrations. Mostly, let the truth about the birth of Jesus Christ, who came to show us how we are to live with one another, guide your life in the new year!
For more about Advent and Christmas, read the December issue of heartfelt, a free online newsletter for busy families who want support for growing body, mind and spirit.
[Answers to the Christmas quiz in this blog in order: b) False; b) Manger; c) Feeding trough; f) None of the above; a) One; f) None of the above; d) Unknown. How did you do?]
Walking down the main street of my small town last Saturday morning, I joined the crowd of families awaiting the arrival of Santa by horse-drawn wagon with great anticipation! Amidst Christmas carolers, brightly-lighted and highly-decorated Christmas displays in store windows, I noted that there were no nativity scenes or references to the birth of Jesus anywhere. My head has not been in the sand, so I certainly have witnessed the slow but inexorable move toward a holiday that celebrates consumerism, rather than the coming of a Savior.
But I asked myself anyway: why does it seem like young children learn about Santa before they learn about Jesus? Are we poor parents if we perpetuate the myth? Are we corrupted Christians if we allow our young children to believe in Santa Claus?
Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend respond to this dilemma in “Raising Great Kids: The Great Santa Debate: What looking forward to Santa will or will not do to your kids.”
Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend advise, “It’s not what children believe about Santa early in life that shapes their view of truth, honesty or trust in what others do. Rather, it’s what parents teach them, enforce with them and model for them about truth and honesty day-to-day. Teach your kids about truthfulness, require honesty from them and properly correct any untruthfulness they display…. That’s the first thing to worry about doing.”
To this advice I add one further step: Christian parents have a moral and spiritual imperative to model and teach their children about how God wants us to live with one another—and that lesson can begin with celebrating the birth of a baby who changed the world: a small helpless baby that set the example for love, respect, faithfulness, and obedience. The birth of Jesus is God’s love made real and Christmas is our opportunity to celebrate God’s love with our children.
So, while your family Christmas traditions may thoughtfully include a mythical Santa Claus, the take-a-way from Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend’s article is, “What’s far more important is to make sure that your child knows the real reason for Christmas, why Jesus came to earth and that he, for sure, is real.”
John 3:16 (The Message)
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.”
You can read Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend’s whole article at christianitytoday.com
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Oh, the bombardment! Ads in newspapers, commercials on TV. The push to buy your Christmas gifts online. I was in a large city recently where the ubiquitous signs and electronic billboards competed with humans waving signs on street corners and cars pulling mini-trailers with small billboards driving up and down the street. Everywhere I look, it is buy, buy, buy.
As if shopping will fill up the emptiness in us.
At Christmas, as we personally seek to prepare for the coming of Jesus, and in our churches and homes, work at being good role models of this for children, the competition for our attention is fierce.
We want to feel filled with God’s spirit of loving and giving. We want to keep Christmas focused and simple, but how?
Here are five ways to curb materialism in your children and reinforce the real reason for Christmas:
1. Teach kids to question marketing messages
2. Focus on family traditions
3. Teach kids to give of themselves
4. Give gifts with meaning
5. Be a good holiday role model
You can read more about these five steps at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/talk/holidays_materialistic.html
Here’s a sixth way: set aside time each day with your children to read from an Advent devotional, or begin reading Luke 1- 2:38, a little each day. Talk about being ready for Jesus, who came to show us the way to care for and live with one another. Invite your children to express themselves about gift-giving. Pray together for the needs of others. Make a plan for helping someone.
Replace the noisiness of Christmas commercialism with your family’s favorite Christmas hymns and songs, and invite everyone to fill themselves up on the joy and excitement that being in relationship with Jesus the Christ brings, the joy and excitement of loving others as Christ loves us.
You can read more about preparing your children for Advent, Christmas and the New Year in the current edition of Heartfelt.