Standing on the Christmas soapbox

There are some things that I need to admit to you before you read any further today. First, I don’t have this parenting thing down perfect. There are plenty of times that my parenting may result in driving my children (and wife) closer to a date with a family therapist than to each other. Like many of you, I do my best, but my intentions often fall short of ideal.

Second, I have certain pet peeves in my life – I think we all do. Some of the tops of my list include the following: people who only drive in the passing lane on a highway without feeling the need to get in the cruising lane – no matter what their speed; stepping in dog poop – no further explanation necessary; 70-80 degree weather in October – many of you will disagree with me on this, but I’m okay with that.

Last, I am admittedly a bit of a scrooge when it comes to Christmas. Let me give you some examples. First is that I will not allow my children to wake up early on Christmas morning to open gifts at the crack of dawn. If they awake early, they may watch television, play games with each other, or go run a marathon, but there is no gift opening until we have gone on a family hike and eaten brunch. Our gift opening does not usually commence until about 10-11 a.m. Second is that I make my children go to bed at a respectable hour on Christmas Eve. I will allow them to stay up a little late, but usually no later than 10-10:30 p.m. Next is that although there may be gifts under the tree well before Christmas, the children are not allowed to touch, shake, poke or even breath heavily on them. We want Christmas Day gift opening to be a surprise! Last is that we will always go to Christmas Eve service. Yes, it’s kind of an obligation as a pastor, but I believe there is also incredible value in refocusing the message of Christmas away from the consumerism that we are constantly bombarded with and back to celebrating the original intent – the birth of Christ!

And it is along those lines that I would like to make my intent clear to all followers of Jesus in this column when I talk about my final pet peeve. I am deeply disturbed when I hear followers of Christ say, or tell others that “Christmas is all about the children.” There, I said it – now you can label me a green-haired Grinch and cast me off as having a heart two sizes too small. Listen, we all have differing values and points of emphasis in our faith – I get it. We are all gifted with abilities and talents with which to serve. However, scripture also states that you are the body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it.

As I read through my Bible I cannot find one aspect of it that even slightly hints or indicates that Christmas is all about the children. In Matthew 19:25, Jesus tells his disciples to let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. This however, is a far cry from the focal point of Christmas somehow transferring from the celebration of the birth of the Son of God in the baby Jesus to making sure that my child is happy and gets every material possession that they covet on Christmas morning.

When Jesus prays for his disciples, he states that they are not of the world, even as I am not of it. If we do not belong to the world, why would we celebrate the birth of Christ in a way that mirrors the celebration of non-believers to the point that we would state that “Christmas is all about the children?” I am simply dumbfounded. Maybe at this point you are thinking that I need some coal in my stocking this year — and you might be correct. However, I would challenge you to read over Exodus 20:3 and ponder what God really meant when he stated: You shall have no other gods before me.

Instead of insuring their happiness on the morning of December 25th, let’s give our children the greatest gift that we possibly could this Christmas – the gift of Jesus. Let’s live our lives in ways that reflect the glory of God in them. Let’s take the time to invest relationally in our children (which is often far more difficult than simply buying them something). Let’s point them to a personal relationship with the one who can truly give them what they need: love, joy, hope and peace. Then we are celebrating the birth of Christ and demonstrating that to a world that so desperately needs to see this message instead of hearing about it. As author and speaker, Steve Maraboli states that if you want to keep the Christ in Christmas: “Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.”

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Finding Faith is written by area pastors. This week’s column comes from Pastor Scott Garman of Cedar Heights Brethren in Christ Church.