You know, I don't get upset by a lot of things that seem to really bother some Christians. I don't care one iota if the cashier at Target says "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas" to me. I really don't. But I do want Christ to reign in my heart and the hearts of my kids. All year long. And I can't help but notice how hard it is for Jesus to compete with Santa and presents and all the glitz and glamour of Christmas each year.
Some of my friends deal with this by just banning Santa, and I respect their decision. But I'm not sure that just removing Santa causes our children to truly treasure Jesus in their hearts. Honoring Christ at Christmas has to involve more than just the removal of the secular.
Starting the fourth Sunday before Christmas this year, each evening we gathered as a family around the table and lit the Advent candles. (Because Advent wasn't part of my religious tradition growing up, I had to do some research on the order of the candles and such.) Lighting the candles added mystery and significance to our time. Then, in the flickering candlelight, I read a chapter from Jotham's Journey, historical fiction about a Jewish shepherd boy living in Israel at the time of the Messiah's birth. Each night, the story ended with a cliffhanger.
My children know the biblical Christmas story well, so they had fun following the fictional Jotham on his journey. We met characters, both biblical and fictional, who shared the longing the Jewish people had for the Messiah's appearance. We saw the story through fresh eyes. A little bit each night. By candlelight.
And the comments were priceless.
"Mom, if Jesus hadn't come, we wouldn't have any way to get to heaven -- Right?"
And from Nathan, the oldest, "Mom, did you notice that the angels said they had good news of great joy for all people? I think the angel was saying the gospel was for all people all around the world, don't you?"
"Wenxin, have you invited Jesus into your heart? Because I really want to be with you in heaven."
We still watched Rudolph, and we pretended that Santa stuffed stockings and brought new bikes and a remote control helicopter and a camera.
But Jesus held the special place of honor. . . each night. . . by candlelight.
And on Christmas morning someone said, "Hey Mom, don't you think we should burn the Christ candle all day long?"
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Shared at "Hear it on Sunday. Use it on Monday."