Our children learn a whole lot about life during the Christmas season. They learn how to indulge themselves. They learn how to be demanding and self-centered. They learn works-righteousness from Santa (Good = presents; Bad = lump of coal). They learn that getting new stuff equals happiness. They learn the secret of discontentment. They learn that our American economy is totally dependent on holiday consumer retail sales (okay, maybe only a few sharp ones...). They are learning these lessons every year thanks to their own sinful hearts, Satan, and the world.
So that means Christian parents must be aggressive, winsome, and purposeful in the education of their children during the holidays. By words and example, it is our duty as parents to train children to think rightly about God, the world, and ourselves. So here’s my list of the “Twelve Truths of Christmas” for children (you may put them to music if you like... “On the first day of Christmas, my dear Savior gave to me, a heart of...”):
- Contentment. We’ll start with possibly the hardest of all lessons: How do we fight against rampant discontentment in our children? It’s taught primarily by what parents REFUSE to do--indulge their child’s every whim throughout the year. If your children are getting whatever they want whenever they want it, then the sinful virus of discontentment will be at fever level at Christmas.
- Compassion. Not just for all the poor children who don’t get presents at Christmas. More importantly, teach your children to have true pity on all who make Christmas meaningless by removing Christ. Our children should grieve for and pray for all their friends and family members who have rejected the Christ of Christmas.
- Joy. Presents bring happiness--usually very temporary happiness for our children. Teach them that their joy can only be found in the Lord!
- Identity. Even though Christmas is a fairly universal holiday, it is one that should only be enjoyed by Christians. After all, what meaning has Jesus taking on human flesh unless you identify yourself with Christ? Your children will either identify with the world or identify with their Savior every Christmas and all through the year.
- Sin. Talking about sin on Christmas is borderline heresy! But your children really need to have their sinful hearts poked during this time of year. Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to show them how they are thinking more about themselves than about Jesus or others.
- Grace. Santa Claus teaches what our sinful hearts want to hear--that good people get good stuff and bad people get bad stuff. It’s not good enough to teach your children that Santa isn’t real; you must debunk the lie that we can be good and that we deserve good things. Show them Jesus, and teach them undeserved grace!
- Giving. Yes, teach your children to give to others this Christmas. And, yes, teach them how much better it is to give than receive. Yet you must teach them how God so loved the world that HE GAVE His Son...or your children will become self-righteous in their giving. We don’t want our children to think highly of their own benevolence when it is God who is the true Giver.
- Receiving. Christianity is first about receiving (on our side of things)--we receive grace, forgiveness, and salvation because of the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ. Children love to receive--it’s adults who are often too proud to receive well. When your children receive a gift, train them to have hearts of gratitude towards all who give to them--because it is a reflection of how they receive Christ.
- Peace. The angels announced that the birth of Christ brings peace on earth. The world defines peace as lack of war, conflict, or trouble. True peace is a lack of hostility between God and man. This is only possible in Christ, and it gives rest in even the most difficult of holidays.
- Love. This one’s obvious, right? But does Christmas just naturally bring love out of our hearts? While our children may not have to be taught affection for their family and friends, they need to learn how to love God with all their hearts, and their neighbors as themselves. This is only learned when the love of God dwells in their hearts.
- Faith. We pray that God gives our children the grace of saving faith so they can put their trust in Christ. Christmas can be a missed opportunity to talk with them about the nature of faith. It’s not about being “good for goodness sake,” but rather resting in Christ alone for salvation.
- Life. The world offers life in all the wrong places and through all the wrong things. Christ is the giver or life. Jesus was born in order to die for our eternal life. Teach it over and over again to your children!
So even though your youngsters are out of school for Christmas break, remember that the School of Jesus never takes a holiday!