For many of us, we have grown up celebrating Christmas without giving much thought to why we celebrate Christmas. We have a variety of celebrations and traditions but we don’t really know why we started doing them other than ‘because it’s the way we’ve always done it.’ Furthermore we are heavily influenced by our emotions – so Christmas has become a great family time and the focus has been placed on ‘just being together’. The other major factor that has shaped our traditions around Christmas is our society. We go into shopping malls and chat with friends and we buy into into the lights, the kids picking a tree and decorating it, making the most of the specials at the shops, cooking great food and attempting to do all the ‘Christmasy’ things on offer.

The question that doesn’t seem to occupy our thoughts is: ‘What is the real meaning behind Christmas? Why do we celebrate this holiday? Of course straight away you will say ‘Jesus’ and that you would never miss church on Christmas day and that you make sure that your children know it’s all about Jesus. But if I were to ask your child about Christmas, what would it be that excites them? What is it that will come to mind and bubble out of them?

The Purpose of Christmas

It’s not that the kids that have a wrong perception of Christmas, it’s us as parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles that have set up certain expectations and certain traditions that our children will grow up to love, cherish and pass on. We need to think very carefully about this observe and celebrate Christmas and the traditions we pass on to the next generation. What is it that we are teaching our children, through our actions, words, the way we set up our homes, the way we spend our money and time over this season. What message are we teaching our children and is it the message that we really want them to be left with come December 26th? Or have we too been caught up in the festivities and have lost out on the true joy of this season.

The question we need to ask first is what is the purpose of Christmas?

We would all be quick to answer that it’s about Jesus and when he was born. However that’s about the full extent of Jesus in our Christmas thinking and planning. We try to make sure that at this time of year we are kind and generous and we remember people in need. Although these things are good and do have their place they are not what Christmas is all about.

The Most Special Birth

So our starting point is that Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus. Our minds should straight away be thinking why was this birth so special, why has the birth of this baby caused such a stir throughout history. The bible says But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21) The bible tells us that the reason Jesus was born in a stable, in Bethlehem, on earth was so that He may, in years to come, die on the cross. To save people from the punishment that their sins deserved. The great celebration that took place on that first Christmas is what ought to characterize our celebrations. But what was the excitement all about? The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” The great truth of Christmas is that God entered our world in the person of Jesus so that we could have our sins forgiven and by trusting in Jesus Christ alone, have the hope of heaven one day. Is this what our children are getting excited about. Is this what we are celebrating each year?

Keeping Christ the Centre of our Celebrations

It is so easy to get sucked into the celebrations that our society have made us think are important at this season: family, gifts, food, and decorations, fun, Santa, Christmas trees, Christmas carols. As much fun as all these things are, they are not the meaning behind this celebration.

For those of us that are wanting to raise our children to know and love the Lord Jesus, this is a time of year that we can’t afford to get wrong. We need to be careful that we don’t make it hard for our children to grow up knowing the real meaning of this occasion. The danger of this season is to think we can incorporate both, but the line is very fine and too often Jesus is not the centre of our celebrations, he barely even features.

“But at the deeper level that young children can’t comprehend yet, he is not like God at all. For example, does Santa really care if we’re bad or good? Think of the most awful kid you can remember. Did he or she ever not get gifts from Santa? What about Santa’s spying and then rewarding you if you’re good enough? That’s not the way God operates. He gave us his gift—his Son—even though we weren’t good at all. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He gave his gift to us to make us  good, not because we had proved ourselves good enough. Helping our children understand God as much as they’re able at whatever age they are is our primary goal.”  Noel Piper

So what are we supposed to do? Just sit around reading the Bible? Squash all the fun that comes with the holidays, and not be involved in any of the festivities? Absolutely not. The challenge for us is to find ways, creative and fun ways, of making Christmas a great tradition in each of our homes. We need to think of and put into practice visible activities and reminders that will fill our houses as we celebrate the amazing gift that God has given us in Jesus Christ.