The speakers in the mall are playing sleigh-bell songs, Santa is in his grotto with a long line of children waiting to stroke his whiskers and the media is full of adverts for the latest ’must-have’ toys. Grocery trolleys are piled high with calories, and the glossy magazines are enticing you to throw away last year’s decorations and go with a whole new theme. And maybe, if you hunt for it, you will find a tiny manger filled with hay huddled in a dark corner, covered with dust. It may even be empty. 2000 years later there is still no room for Jesus amongst the crowds of people who have forgotten why they celebrate.
As Christians we think we understand something of the true meaning of Christmas. But what would you say was the real meaning of Christmas? Peace, love, good news for all people, God with us, God saving us, equality, humility, giving generously, hospitality, acceptance, courage, caring for the homeless…? The Advent story has many facets. If we want to make Christmas spiritually significant for our children, we need to understand the spiritual significance it has for us. Discover the aspects of Christmas you are most passionate about, and then find ways to share your passion with your children.
The story of Jesus’ birth has been carefully constructed with us and our children in mind. The Bible could simply say that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but the story takes on added dimensions when there are political upheavals; a young, homeless, pregnant mother gives birth in a stable; angels sing to shepherds and stars guide wise men across distant deserts. This has been choreographed by God himself. The action unfolds with Bethlehem center stage in the Universe, and a story is created to be retold and re-enacted. It is carefully balanced. Poor shepherds visit the baby as well as rich men. There are plots and subplots and an evil villain of a king. Danger lurks around dark corners, but the Light of the World cannot be extinguished, tiny and vulnerable though He is.
The story has been told to inspire a sense of wonder and mystery. It captures our imagination and it is especially appealing to children. Take some time out to immerse yourselves in the story. Read it from different books. Ask each other, ‘which part of the story do you like the best? Which part is the most important to you? Where do you see yourself in the story?’ And then ask yourself which aspect you most want to celebrate with your children and family this year? And why this aspect now? Maybe your family needs to experience peace after a time of confusion and pain, or a sense of God being with you (Immanuel) during a time of uncertainty.
The best antidote to all the commercialism is to keep the real story alive in your own mind. Keep telling it to your children in different ways. Bring it to life. Talk about what you are going to give other people, rather than what you want to get. Keep plans and decorations simple, and focus on the needs of your children and the people around you who are struggling. Find ways to share what you have and involve your children in the projects. Help them to see, feel, smell, hear and taste what the real story is all about. Maybe you can camp in a stable for one night, play choral music that sounds like angels, and share a sense of wonder about God’s amazing love that would give his only son to be born as a fragile human being, just for you.
In the margins there are some ideas to help you bring Christmas alive and make it more meaningful for you and your children. Ask the Holy Spirit to inspire your season; to help you put Jesus at the very center of everything you do; and to give you God’s perspective on all your plans. Then your children will have a deeper understanding of the spiritual significance of this amazing event, and you will help them to live in a deeper understanding of God’s love.