Now that Erin and I are parents, we do a lot of talking and planning about how we will go about certain things with Emma. Over the past several weeks, of course, we have been doing a lot of thinking about how we will approach Christmas with her. What kind of traditions do we want to have? How do we approach gift-giving? What do we do with Santa!? We have had some interesting conversations, to say the least, as we have been thinking out loud together. As I have been pondering on these ideas, some things have become abundantly clear to me. One recent thought I have had is what a wonderful opportunity that we neglect during the Christmas season to teach our children about grace. Let me explain.
As I drove home the other evening, the old song “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” played on the radio. As I sang along, I began to think about something that is very interesting to me. One of the lessons that secular Christmas teaches our children is that Santa will bring presents to children who are nice, but not those who are naughty. “So you better be a nice little boy/girl,” we tell them, “or Santa won’t bring you any gifts!” As I sang along to the tune, I found myself realizing that I have never met a child who was on the naughty list. Everyone seems to be on the nice list. I thought about the ramifications of this traditional thought and came to this conclusion…
Basically, children come to the understanding that they can be a tyrant. They can throw temper tantrums, get their way at any cost, basically run their parents and their home, neglect obedience, and still yet, Santa will come. And why does he come and bring presents despite their year-long poor behavior? “Because I deserve it,” they come to think. It’s not very far along in their lives before they come to believe that they deserve it, even if it means their parents going deep into debt to get it for them. They deserve it. And they better get it, or else!
While there are still a lot of decisions yet to be made about how Erin and I will raise Emma, there is one tough decision we have already made. We will not make Santa a big deal. Now, we won’t seek to make Christmas totally void of Jolly Old Saint Nick, but he just won’t be a big deal in our home. She’ll have a stocking. Our family members will not be forbidden to ‘play Santa’ with her. However, Emma will be told early on that he is not real, but we can enjoy him as just a fun character during this season. I want you to understand why we have made this decision. You see, because of what I just discussed, in the minds of children, Santa becomes nothing more than a figure that exists for the sole purpose of pleasing me. Whether a child is naughty or nice, he brings presents because that child deserves them…and a lot of them.
This is exactly the attitude I want so desperately for Emma NOT to adopt. We hope for actually the opposite. We want to teach Emma that she is deserving of no gifts…none of us are. We do not give Emma gifts because she deserves them. We give her gifts because she is our beautiful little girl and we love her so much. We hope to cultivate within her a deep gratitude not for an abundance of presents, but for parents who love her and a God who has blessed her GREATLY, despite the fact that she’s undeserving.
The other day, I heard a man use an illustration on K-Love (our Christian music station). He told of a little girl who woke up on Christmas morning and ran as fast as she could to the living room of her house. Upon arriving there, and seeing all the presents under the tree, she exclaimed, “He came! He came! Even though I was naughty he came!” That’s exactly what Jesus did for us, shared the man. He came. He stepped out of the glory of heaven and came to this cruel earth to die in order that I might be reconciled to God…despite my sinfulness and disobedience… despite my rejection of Him. I definitely do NOT deserve that.
I want Emma to come to understand that humble realization early in life as well. If I have to go against the flow and the popular traditions of our society in order to give her that picture of grace, I will gladly do it. After all, when it comes to Emma, nothing is more important to me than doing all that I can to see her give her life to Jesus. Not being a cool parent. Not doing all I can to see that she approves of me or likes me. I’m coming to understand that’s what being a Dad is all about. I’m far from perfect, and will probably mess that up a lot. But, this one thing I can do, in order that my little girl come to understand what the grace of God is all about.
My challenge to you, as parents during this Christmas season, is that you would do all you can to point your children to God’s grace. Remind them that we are undeserving. Remind them of the blessings that God has already given us; especially through the little baby that He sent in order that we could be restored in a relationship with Him.