There is so much irony involved with how we celebrate Christmas. It never really made sense to me as a child. I asked questions like:
-What does a Christmas tree have to do with Jesus?
-Why is Christmas all about presents?
-Why do other parents lie to their kids about Santa Clause?
-Why is Christmas a bigger deal than Easter?
If you’ve ever asked any of those questions, I’d like to invite you to consider with me what it might look like to re-invent Christmas. Here are 5 steps to a reinvented Christmas:
5 Steps to Reinventing Christmas:
Step 1. Be imaginative, but don’t lie. It still perplexes me why Christian parents would deliberately lie to their kids about Santa. It’s like they don’t realize or care that their children should be able to trust them in everything. I’m sure I’ll be stepping on some toes here, but please bear with me—Children don’t need you to lie to them in order to enjoy the Santa story. Children are IMAGINATIVE. They are so imaginative that they can pretend like something is true even when they know it isn’t—to the point that they will often cry in fear of the pretend monster they themselves have created. So why should we lie to them about Santa? Why not say “Hey little Jonny, Santa isn’t actually real, but it’s fun to pretend like he is, so lets leave out some milk and cookies for him *wink*”. If you join with your kids in the game, while at the same time telling them the truth, they will have just as much fun, I assure you. They will also know they can trust you. How do I know? Because this is exactly what my parents did, and I’m thankful for it.
Step 2: Save the Best Presents for Easter. Why did I always look forward to Christmas more than Easter as a child? Certainly Jesus’ coming into the world was a wonderful gift, and his life among us was filled with endless little gifts—but Christians can hopefully all agree that his greatest gift to us was his death and resurrection—his victory over sin and its consequences. So why does our celebrating elevate ‘Baby Jesus’ over ‘Victorious King Jesus’. Maybe it has something to do with Christmas’ Origins, which were less than Christian, to say the least. So here’s what I propose: Give your kids presents on Christmas, just like our culture does; do the whole holiday cheer thing—BUT, hold back one present, which is the biggest and best present for each child, and explain to them that they don’t get to open that present until Easter, because that is when God gave mankind his biggest and best present. The symbolism, I think, will be a much better fit to the true story.
Step 3. Countdown to Christmas Biblically. You can keep whatever countdown tradition you currently use, but I propose that you consider adding something to it: Countdown to Christmas by reading one Old Testament prophecy about the coming Messiah each night. Trace the line of Messianic prophecy throughout the Old Testament, from Genesis 3 to Genesis 12, to Jacob’s blessing over his son Judah, to 1 Samuel 7, Isaiah 7, 9, 11, 53, Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36, Daniel 7, etc. Show your Children the millennia of prophetic anticipation that led up to the first Christmas. Show them how Jesus’ coming fulfilled the hopes of Israel. You can get creative with this and do it however you want. My own family did it in the week before Christmas, looking at one prophecy each night. It was doubtless our most meaningful Christmas tradition.
Step 4. Give to the Less Fortunate. This one is already popular, but I have a small twist, so its worth discussing. Use Christmas as a reminder and an opportunity to give to the less fortunate, not just money, but time and love. God, on the first Christmas, gave to us himself. Christ left his heavenly riches and came to walk among the poor and destitute. How appropriate that we should model ourselves after him in doing the same. So giving money is good, but giving time and love is, I think, even better (especially when they are all working together in combination). So volunteer at a homeless shelter, or even better, ask your pastor if there are any families in your church that are struggling to make it financially, and have them over for a lavish dinner, and befriend them, and pray for them.
Step 5. Put on Love. This one comes from Colossians 3:14: “Over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity”. Love is the currency that matters in eternity. It is the currency that doesn’t whither with inflation. So invest in love. Invest in your family. Invest in friends. Sound out cards to old friends from your past that remind them you still care and your doors are always open should they have a need. Invest love in your children and remind them that you care about them, not just by buying them gifts, but by telling them why you love them. Invest in love of God by reading his story and understanding it a little better each year. Thank him for investing Love in humanity’s story 2000 years ago.