The struggle to keep Jesus at the center of Christmas resurfaces every year. Christian bookstores present new Advent products at the beginning of each season. Mommy bloggers publish reading schedules and offer crafts to help point our little ones to Jesus. Our struggle reaches its pinnacle on Christmas morning when we try to balance the excitement of unwrapping gifts with the celebration of Jesus’ birth.
A few years ago, as I sat with crumpled wrapping paper and delighted children at my feet, I had the bright idea to show my kids the Christmas story. At the time Netflix offered The Bible TV mini-series. I previewed a few episodes in the past and was impressed with its accuracy. I called all the kids to come snuggle under a soft blanket with me and cued up the episode containing Jesus’ birth.
Here’s where our story takes a fateful turn.
In case you are tempted to do the same this Christmas season, let me warn you—don’t. Remember how the Christmas story includes the Wise Men asking Herod where to find King Jesus? And how Herod’s jealousy drives him to order the mass killing of all Jewish children under the age of two? Well, that’s exactly how this episode begins. Soldiers ride through the streets using their swords without mercy.
Here I sit with my precious children, now wide-eyed with horror. The youngest one starts crying. The oldest one screams protectively, “Turn it off! Turn it off!” It was emotional chaos. Instead of sharing Jesus with my kids on Christmas morning, I traumatized them with scenes of genocide.
It took a while for all of us to calm down. I tucked my youngest daughter under my arm and smoothed her hair with a gentle shushing. I apologized to my indignant eldest who couldn’t believe I would subject them to such horrors—and on Christmas! We tried to redeem the morning by reading the endearing version of the Christmas story in Sally Lloyd-Jones’ Jesus Storybook Bible. Unfortunately, some things cannot be undone; some images cannot be unseen.
The Truth in the Trauma
We laugh about that story now—the time I showed my children bloodshed on Christmas morning. However, bloodshed is the backstory of Christmas, isn’t it? The Christmas story is about a promise fulfilled. It is about a sweet baby boy born to a virgin mother. Shepherds come to worship, and Magi bring precious gifts from afar.
Yet coupled with the beauty is the underlying theme of sacrifice. Jesus left heaven to wrap himself in flesh. In Sally Lloyd-Jones’ words:
Though he was the Prince of Heaven, he had become poor. Though he was the Mighty God, he had become a helpless baby. This King hadn’t come to be the boss. He came to be a servant.
Jesus came on a secret rescue mission. All along, the Father’s plan was to spill the holy blood coursing through Jesus’ veins to cover the wrong we do. This ultimate sacrifice would be the only way to make us right with God once again.
In these weeks leading up to Christmas morning, enjoy the lights and the smell of the tree. Enjoy the palpable anticipation. But also take the time to consider the backstory—the one with sacrifice, blood, and redemption.
And whatever you do, preview anything you plan to show your kids on Christmas morning!Take the time to consider the backstory---the one with sacrifice, blood, and redemption.Click To Tweet
Help Young Children Understand Christmas Traditions
The month of December is full of traditions–from the decorated trees in our living rooms to the gifts that sit beneath them. Our children come to expect these mainstays of the Christmas season, but do they know why? Sally Lloyd-Jones explains the meaning behind these familiar symbols in her book, My Merry Christmas. The beautifully illustrated board book is perfect for toddlers, preschoolers, and early elementary-aged children. The rhythmic rhymes connect readers with the wonder of the first Christmas in Bethlehem.
As a parent, I appreciate opportunities to point my children back to Jesus. While Christmas seems like the perfect time to capture these teachable moments, I often miss them in the hustle and bustle of the season. My Merry Christmas provides the perfect prompt for my family to talk about ways our Christmas is so intricately connected to the very first Christmas.
Photo via Pixabay.
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