Christmas is about Christ. The goal of Christian parents, then, should be to make much of Christ during the Christmas season. From decorations to family traditions, everything should display Christ clearly as He is revealed in the Bible. The decision about which Christmas traditions are appropriate to continue for our children should be calibrated by the ability to display Christ and His work clearly. Based on this criterion, there may be Christmas traditions that parents should consider eliminating altogether, and some that need tweaking to fulfil the objective of displaying Christ. Let’s discuss five Christmas traditions that parents can consider teaching their children for the purpose of exposing their kids to the real reason for Christmas, namely, Jesus Christ.
Growing up, my family would look forward to Christmas caroling. It is a great time for children to sing biblically sound Christmas songs, listen to Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming Messiah, and hear the gospel account of the birth of our Savior. With some planning, this activity can be a great opportunity for evangelism. Kids can closely observe adults sharing the love of Christ to unbelieving neighbours and family. One warning about this tradition is a somewhat lazy, programmatic approach to carolling that might lead to entertainment alone as the overall goal instead of displaying Christ. Parents should be intentional in using carolling as an opportunity to make Christ known clearly.
Another tradition that can be applied is that of appropriate Christmas decorations in the house. Involving kids in picking or making these decorations can provide another platform to share the gospel story with them. One such example is displaying the manger scene and taking advantage of its movable parts. As parents read from the scriptures, kids can use the figures to act out the biblical story of Christmas. One major warning about depicting the manger scene, in India, is the possibility of promoting idolatry. If parents choose to display the manger scene, they must use the utmost caution to articulate clearly to their child that the manger scene is merely a depiction of the biblical story and not idols that we worship. Kids can also enjoy doing arts and crafts of the star that the wise men observed and place those decorations in the house. Parents must, however, be careful not to depict our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in any way. It is not only sacrilegious, but also, a complete misrepresentation of Jesus.
Cakes & Cookies
Decorating cakes or making cookies with children can give them an opportunity to relearn the gospel account of Christmas in a creative way. The sweets can be iced with biblical Christmas sayings or pictures depicting the Christmas story. Children know that birthdays are celebrated with cake, so why not have them make a birthday cake for Jesus? Parents can use this opportunity to teach children about the significance of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. It can also be a great time for children to invite their friends for some cake and fellowship. Teaching kids how to build healthy relationships is an important Christian trait and Christmas can be a valuable time to do this.
We can also use this opportunity to teach our children the importance of stewardship. This particular activity will require some planning and discipline. Many times when children meet their grandparents or relatives, they are given some money. If parents are intentional about teaching their kids about good financial stewardship at an early age, then they can use this opportunity to help their kids set aside money for tithing, saving, giving, and spending. It is important to remember that this is not about how much money children get, but about stewarding the money that they get for the glory of God.
Using the advent calendar to explain the Christmas story can also be an effective way to teach our children the importance of Christmas. An advent calendar counts down the 24 days prior to Christmas Day. Parents can use this opportunity to make a calendar that has the biblical story in pictorial form behind every day starting from December 1st. The countdown to Christmas helps teach our kids about how God’s people were yearning for the coming Messiah. Take this time to read the prophecies from Psalms and Isaiah concerning the much anticipated coming of the Messiah, emphasizing that Jesus’ coming made the possibility of redemption a reality.
One tradition that we must counsel our children about is that of Santa Claus. The modern-day depiction of Santa Claus is so far removed from its inspiration of St. Nicholas and his story that it does a disservice to teaching children the biblical Christmas. Unfortunately, churches also get trapped in this tradition and apply it in a worldly way that adds fuel to the ever-flaming fire of consumerism. Children learn to make Christmas about gifts instead of Christ when we make much of Santa Claus and the gifts that he gives. Additionally, the tradition of Santa Claus also teaches a works-based morality that goes against the biblical idea of justification and sanctification. Parents should use this opportunity to steer their children away from the consumerism that the world teaches us and towards giving like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ did. This can also be used as an opportunity to teach our children the gift that God gave us when He sent Jesus.
Finally, my pastor friends and Christian friends, remember to teach families to use Christmas as a platform to make friends with neighbours in their respective communities. What a privilege for us to invite them over through so many different avenues and share the good news of Jesus Christ! May God use this Christmas, even during this difficult time, to use His people to display Christ clearly.
Nathan Eda serves as an elder in Community Bible Fellowship, Navi Mumbai. He is married to Jen and they have a daughter.