John Piper, long-time pastor and founder of Desiring God, writes about Santa versus Jesus in response to a parent's question: Corbin, a listener from Gainesville, Georgia, asked: “Pastor John, should parents allow their children to believe Santa Claus is bringing them gifts on Christmas?”
Piper's answer? Superb. It's a must read that will blow your socks off and set your heart on fire for Jesus all over again, and it will rejuvenate your commitment to making it all about the only One who will never disappoint us, never forsake us, and never stop redeeming our brokenness.
Right now, it's fun to excite our kids with presents and cookies and sparkly decorations, but if that takes up all our time and energy, what will they have to hold on to, as adults, when sorrow and disappointment come their way? When our daughter is fighting for joy after a miscarriage, will all those hours spent with lights and tinsel and cookie dough help her then? When our son loses his job and wonders desperately how he and his family will make it, will the toy trains and Hot Wheels tracks we fought the crowds and traffic to buy, do him any good? When our child's spouse cheats and devastates our child's heart, the choice will be to divorce and move on, breaking our grandkids' hearts, or stay and do the hard work of undeserved love and forgiveness.
Their lives will get hard quickly when they leave us, and we get only one chance to give them a taste of the Lord, preferably a very strong taste before 12 years old. Once in the world, their chances of falling in love with Him and possessing tested faith in Him, are slim. The cookies and the trains are nice, but they have to take up a very small portion of our parenting time, compared to our discipling.
The best way for a parent to spend the Christmas season? How about spending one half a day buying a present or three (Jesus received only three), and spend the other 23 days of December leading up to Christmas, with your child next to you, explaining over and over again, with different resources, books, and conversations, why she needs Jesus and why she'll always need him, and how no one and nothing else will ever measure up to Him.
One suggestion--something we do in our home--is to have the children open whatever is given to them the weekend before Christmas, so that Christmas day is not spent in commercial preoccupation and anticipation.
They are children only a small portion of their lives, and while childhood should be magical and precious, it is also preparatory. It's a fleeting window of opportunity to teach life-saving, legacy-leading, heaven-bound principals.
We moms and dads try pretty hard to make Christmas exciting for our kids. This year, I challenge all of us to spend less time searching for exciting Christmas cookie recipes, and more time finding ways to make Jesus the Star.
Lots of Drama - Put on simple family Christmas story skits or plays, starting with the Angel Gabriel appearing to Mary. It can be surprising how often preschool and lower-elementary children, especially, need to hear and see this story before they can tell it themselves from start to finish, and remember it from year to year. Make that the goal, that each child in your house can tell you the whole Christmas story from start to finish, and memorize at least two fundamental Christmas verses, by Christmas Day. We don't have our children memorize scripts for simple family plays. We narrate a little and announce scenes, and they come up with their own sentences/dialogue, depending on age. We often suggest what our youngest child could say, if she is struggling. The drama is casual, fun, simple, and a very effective teaching tool.
Vocabulary and Concepts - Jesus came to us in a humble stable, living a humble 33 years among us. Humility is a big word in the Christian faith. Put some butcher paper on the wall and write the word Humility or Humble in the center of the paper. Each day, add definitions or examples of humility to the paper. Leave it up all month for review and more discussion.
God's Purpose - What was God's purpose in sending Jesus? Why is it so exciting that the Messiah has finally come? How does Jesus save us, that first time we believe, and every day after that? What is the good news of great joy?
Storybooks - Write simple illustrated books depicting the Christmas story. The best artist in the family can illustrate, and the rest of the family can write the words together. Those of us who can't draw get a little nervous when asked to produce art, but it's great to ask anyone who likes to draw to participate. Some can color or decorate, while others draw the images. If we spend enough time discipling at Christmastime, this won't be a difficult activity for our children, and these books can be saved and treasured through the years.
Resist the pulls on your time, and make a Mary decision--to sit at Jesus' feet and learn of Him, together.
Luke 2:10-11 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.