Christian Kids at Christmas

ChristmasIt seems that a lot of Christians are unwittingly complicit in teaching kids to commodify Christmas. This, of course, helps kids think temporally rather than eternally. For example, how often do well meaning people approach our children about their Christmas plans by asking, “What do you want for Christmas?” On the face of it, questions like these are innocent, and, of course those nice folks at church don’t intend to introduce anything diabolical. But these questions frame childrens’ thinking processes and teach children that Christmas is about getting stuff.

As a kid I remember poring over the pages of the Sears “Wish Book” for hours, salivating at the mere thought of a remote-controlled car. Instead of training our children to value important family memories or to perceive Christmas as a time to rehearse a lifelong practice of giving, we train them to ask for Christmas presents. In a world where spiritual values become commodified, kids grow up dreaming about what to GET for Christmas! It’s really quite a wrong-headed set of values.

Why don’t we stop asking them what they for Christmas and start teaching them how to celebrate Christmas?! Why don’t we ask them how they want, along with their families, to creatively GIVE at Christmas? Why don’t we stop being complicit with the marketing machine and begin asking what they want to give away with their lives and resources?!

Can you imagine what our kids would be like if we began teaching them that a truly exciting life is one that whose resources are spent for the Kingdom’s sake?! If Christmas was approached by Christians as an opportunity to teach children about living to give like God did in Jesus, our kids wouldn’t care so much about getting clothes that came from a certain store. No, that behavior is learned… just like the quality of character that cares about giving more than receiving.

This Christmas we’re asking our 5-year-old daughter to write a letter to Santa Claus and baby Jesus outlining her hopes for Christmas with the instruction that her requests should include some “gifts” for some people other than just her. This is just like the prayers we’ve heard her say where she mimics Mommy and Daddy, “Dear Jesus, please help all those little boys and girls who don’t have mommies and daddies and homes or enough food or clothing.” Little does she know she’s going to receive a response that outlines why we give gifts and how Santa Claus and Jesus want them to live her life as a gift to the glory of God. Now, of course, we’re hoping the Santa Claus is only a temporary mythical fixation that falls by the wayside in time. And, don’t worry, we’ll let her know that Santa Claus is to Jesus sort of like John the Baptist was… his practice of giving gifts is meant to point us to Christ.

In the complexity of modern culture, Christian parents must be intentional and creative in their approach to teaching children to navigate the exigencies of a world where the plausibility of God is pushed to the margins of reality. We must correct the imbalance. Anything less is tantamount to playing with their eternal destinies.

Now there’s nothing wrong with giving presents and everyone loves to see the excitement on kids’ faces when they receive a gift, but this is half the story. I also want my kids to be excited that God is getting glory and His Kingdom is expanding.

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