As a Christian parent, it has been very important to me that my children develop a biblical view of life and all of its component parts. This includes celebrations and events. What is the celebration for, what is the proper way to view the celebration, how do we participate in this celebration in a way that will bring glory to God?
Christmas has always been a special time but as a child there was a focus on the "getting" part more than the giving. I would be hard pressed to name many gifts that I received over the years (a desk that my Grandpa Slagenweit refinished for me, a stereo, a shelf from an old boyfriend) but I remember with fondness the many times we'd go Christmas caroling at our church and then later as a family, the many plates of cookies that my mother gave out, and all of the gifts that I've given to individuals. Giving is always more fulfilling than receiving and more memorable.
As we entered this Christmas season we worked diligently to focus on the true meaning of Christmas. In family devotions we focused on the "comings" of Christ (as I mentioned in a previous post). We lit the candles on the coffee table centerpiece as a visual reminder (and boys have this attraction to flames!) As we decorated we talked about the symbolism of the nativity set, the star on the tree, the lights, etc. All of this was building to the day that we celebrate Jesus' birth. But we forgot one thing...or perhaps we didn't forget...it just didn't seem as important as what we'd been talking about and focusing on....presents.
Allan had no idea that Christmas involved getting presents until a faculty member at GBS asked him what he wanted for Christmas. After a slight hesitation he mentioned that he had already received a firetruck and a book. It dawned on me that "wanting" wasn't crossing his radar. I was very thankful that in all of our talk of Christmas and building anticipation it centered around celebrating the coming of Jesus. But it also made me sad because I knew by the time this Christmas season had ended that question or the question, "What did you get for Christmas" would be the main focus.
When we woke up Christmas morning Allan was so excited...today was the day we would celebrate Jesus' birthday! So we rushed around getting ready to go to Pop-pop and Gramme's house. I cooked breakfast, we gathered our things and went to KY. There we read the Christmas story and opened gifts, ate our Christmas feast and visited with friends and family and had a wonderful time. I brought the boys home in the evening so they could get to bed in good time and before turning out the light I sat down to talk with Allan. We talked about the day and his attitudes and behavior and then he asked me something that made me want to cry. "Mommy, was this the day to celebrate Jesus?" "Yes," I said, "today is the day we celebrate when Jesus was born." His little forehead wrinkled and he asked, "Did we celebrate Jesus?".....
With a lump in my throat I analyzed our day. Did we? Did we really celebrate Jesus? Was the reading of the story of his birth, the very heartfelt prayer before dinner enough? Though he didn't audibly speak the words I could tell that my son was not convinced that we had done what the day deserved. I wanted to push the rewind button on the day and start over. I wanted once again to wake up and hear him say, "Wake up, it's Christmas! Today is the day to celebrate Jesus!" I would have done things differently. We wouldn't have rushed anywhere. I'd like to think that we'd have stopped right there in our PJ's while still in bed and had a family hug while we prayed and thanked God for sending His Son. Slowed down and taken the time to tell the story again and marvel at God's plan. Some people may think that children wouldn't appreciate the miracle of what we're celebrating but I disagree. (I will not go into any child-rearing philosophies at this point)
So we're not done "celebrating Jesus" yet in our home. I made a lot of preparations for celebrating the day but was woefully unprepared for celebrating Jesus. It's taken some additional planning and time but we're going to do it right this time. So, "Joy to the World, the Lord has Come!" We'll see you in the new year.
PS. Normally these reflections are reserved for my journal ... but perhaps all of us need to see our celebrations through a child's eyes. Merry Christmas dear friends...have a wonderful, Christ-honoring, new year.