Being a church-going brunette girl meant the same thing every December. I was always Mary come Christmas time. Okay, that’s a lie. When I was too young for lines I was a sheep and when I outgrew the role, I became the Inn keeper or Narrator. My husband claims he was always a shepherd, whacking the back of his sisters' heads with the staff. (As in he was never trusted with an important role.) Whose genius idea is it to give pre-pubescent boys large whacking sticks? Anyways, the Nativity story holds fond memories for us who have grown up in North American church culture.
Now while it has been many years since I’ve slipped on the blue housecoat over my scraggly child-like body and vanilla table cloth over my tangled hair, I am yet again playing the role of Mary. Not that I’m a virgin teenager, but I am with child. (I’m due shortly after Christmas with baby two.)
Sometimes we like to consider the social pressures and obstacles Mary faced during her expectancy. However playing the waiting game for both the holiday and my child, I wonder about her complaints. Like was Jesus really active in the womb? I mean, this is the LORD incarnate right? The inn was full. The whole town of Bethlehem would have been crowded. Was Joseph able to round up a midwife or two to help with delivery? And mercy! Travelling by donkey? Okay, it’s better than travelling by foot, but still. Ouch! Maybe that trip alone induced the labour. (I’m assuming this was their method of travel.) Did they pack expecting to deliver on the way or was it earlier than they thought? Did they pray to God asking, “In your timing but... please after we return home from the census”?
Imagine if Jesus’ birth was recorded by women? The details on that report would probably include what time of day the contractions started, how long she was labouring for, the nursing—all of it could have been unnecessarily descriptive. To some it may still be an interesting story, but those details pull from the main focus.
But it never hurts to wonder.
And to an unbelieving world we are provided with more than enough details to accept Christ. Prophecy fulfillment aside, Baby Jesus must have been incredibly cute for the shepherds to be spreading the news about a newborn. Yeah, God doesn’t make mistakes, but this was His own son. I’m curious; did He add a dimple or two?
Years ago, John Grisham wrote the novel Skipping Christmas about an empty-nesting couple who decided to pass over their festivities for a Caribbean cruise, because their only daughter was unable to spend Christmas with them. Looking at the costs, the husband’s idea would have saved money and exerted efforts by abandoning their traditions. (This book later became a holiday classic film known as Christmas with the Kranks.)
It’s a rather attractive idea isn’t it, since the winter season seems to add more to our daily schedule. From decorating the home, participating in church and community events, attending the work Christmas party, buying gifts, writing cards and sending off newsletters... oh my! The list goes on. Whether the family is on a budget or not, crafting their way through the season or shopping in the stores—sometimes this occasion can seem overwhelming.
What is the meaning of all of this? Why do we feed the machine? Can’t Christmas be simple? Why bother? Well, as Christians we recognize Christmas is not about the materialism, but the Messiah.
How do we explain that to our kids when what we say and what we do conflict each other? How do we share the good news of Jesus Christ when we are frantically following the culture of twinkling lights and turkey dinners? What good is it to war between the phrase ‘Happy Holidays’ versus ‘Merry Christmas’ around little watching eyes? As a parent of young toddler who is a frolicking tape recorder, I am convicted to teach the importance of Baby Jesus.
It’s not easy.
Give a toddler a new toy and tell them it’s because of Jesus’ Birthday. How effective is that? Try explaining all of this is because a virgin gave birth to God’s son. Are you ready to define virginity? What if you mention there was no vacancy at the inn, the shepherds were startled by angels, or that wise men who tracked down the stars studied the sky to find the family? It’s a strange event we Christians celebrate.
We pick between the stable scene or Santa Claus, but both have been materialized.
Then there are the parents who choose to wait until their children are older before mentioning God. Why? Should we allow ignorance of His presence in our homes? Sure my child is young, but my responsibility is to train her in both physical and spiritual matters. Yes, she is still in diapers, but that doesn’t stop us from reading stories, singing songs, and using the given opportunities to explain Him.
For our family, I’m choosing this Christmas to teach this truth: The world needed a hero and God fulfilled His promise to send one. Jesus Christ is that hero, we call him the Messiah. Jesus was God’s way of saving everyone from evil and proving his love for us. Christmas is when we remember God sent his son, God in all His power became a man... starting as a helpless baby. The goal here is my child learns we celebrate what the LORD has done. (And as an added bonus, we learn something about God. For example, God keeps his promises, or God is generous.)
Christmas is a family holiday and to each kin, they have their own traditions. Let’s not get too caught up in the rituals that our little ones are left confused. They are so young; they are absorbing all our actions. Time with family is good. Dressing up and singing carols are fun. Dinners and treats are delicious. Being hospitable, generous, and forgiving is always beneficial. However a young parent should observe their surroundings then ask, “What is Christmas to my child?”