It's not just us adults that need a refocus during this season, a holy escape from the rat race that we've made life to be. Have you ever considered that children need that sacred re-adjustment too? How does our hurried lifestyle affect the youngest among us? Is it possible that our fast-paced, not to mention increasingly secular and post-modern, culture has confused our kids?
Before I go any further, let me give you your first Christmas gift:
You now have permission to SLOW DOWN.
. . .And while you're in the process of slowing down, make sure to read to the end of this blog. :-)
The last week has been filled with end-of-year festivities and holiday gatherings here in Whangarei. December marks the end of the academic year in New Zealand and the beginning of summer. Our 2013 Rock Solid youth club came to a conclusion last night with a big feast and farewell. Just days before that, I said a sad good-bye to my students at the local primary school to whom I've taught Bible for the past two years. Many of them will advance to intermediate school next year. Next Tuesday gymnastics will come to a halt for the summer break. If we're not careful, the Advent season will be nothing more than a blur and we'll arrive at Christmas day, thankful to have just survived it.
There is a different way.
It is my intention with our Kids Club to show the children a different way by creating meaningful experiences for Advent and answering some of those age old questions revolving around our beloved Christmas traditions. There are even some myths that need a bit of debunking so that unnecessary and faulty thinking can be cast aside, making space for the truth that God has indeed incarnated himself on our behalf. This requires intentionality and a slower pace of life.
Some of the questions that we are considering over the next few weeks are:
- Why do we call it Christmas?
- When was Jesus actually born?
- What about Christmas trees?
- Who is St. Nicholas and how did he become Santa Claus?
- Why is Christmas such a big deal?
- Why do we give gifts at Christmas?
- What are the "12 Days of Christmas" all about?
Once the question is presented, we give the kids an opportunity to share their guesses before diving into a bit of scripture and history.
While their responses may be cute and quirky, clearly, we've got some confused kids.
You'll notice that many answers are a messy combination of Easter, Christmas, folk religion, and popular trends.
Q: When was Jesus born?
A: " I think Jesus is reborn each year. He died on the cross, came back to life, and is reincarnated into a baby each year."
Q: Why do we give gifts at Christmas?
A: "Jesus comes and puts presents under your Christmas tree."
"We give people gifts because those two rich guys gave Jesus fancy gifts when he was born."
Q: Why is Christmas such a big deal?
A: "Christmas is all about being with family and being nice to people."
The cuteness wears off quickly when you realize that these responses come not only from young 5 year olds, but from 12-13 year olds who should know better.
But let's not be so hard on the kids. I dare say that some adults would come up with equally misguided answers, only disguised in more sophisticated, intelligent-sounding adult language.
And even louder than words from our mouth are the answers to these questions that our lifestyle broadcasts. Are we communicating that Christmas is a big deal because materialism and Black Friday have made it that way? Do our motives say that we give gifts because altruism makes us feel good about ourselves? Do our calendars expose our belief that in order to do the season justice we must over cram our schedules, engage in gluttony, and watch as many holiday films as possible?
Where is Jesus in all of this?
Here's the challenge for me. .. for you. Take the family on a holy escape. Settle in with the good Book and a hot cup of tea, and have a chat with the Son of God who came to make you a child of God.