Every year I hear about the schizophrenic nature of the Christmas season: It is a time of both “peace on Earth,” and the commercialism that is best exemplified by the annual chaos and shopping frenzy of Black Friday. How can we, as parents, inculcate in our children the “true meaning” of Christmas? What, in fact, is the true meaning of Christmas?
Christmas is ultimately about reconciliation; God reconciling Himself to us through Jesus. Reconciliation has several definitions, dealing with personal relationships, theology, and even accounting, but all of these refer to making things right. Jesus came into the world to reconcile God to sinful humanity, to give us a way to make our relationship with God right, the way it should be.
Reconciliation is a difficult theme to grasp at times, and I have noticed that art and culture can often make theoretical concepts more tangible, so I would like to suggest some excellent Christmas stories that can make the concept of “reconciliation” real for your children, whether your children are young or older.
My favorite Christmas story, which I just read (three times in the past few months!) for a class I am teaching is Charles Dickens’s, A Christmas Carol. The story is a familiar one… Scrooge goes from being a grumpy misanthropic miser to a generous benefactor after the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future show him that his life course has been a meaningless quest for money. Scrooge learns that investing in the lives of others would be a better use of his resources. If reading the original book is too daunting for you and your family, you might consider watching any number of films that show Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey (although I must admit that I refuse to watch the Jim Carey version myself).
But ghost stories, despite their redeeming value may terrify younger children; so two other stories might better fit your family. First is How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. This classic tale follows a Scrooge-like recluse who learns that Christmas is not about the gifts and trappings but about “something more.” Although the Grinch does not quite figure out the whole truth, we as Christians can fill in the gap for our children. Here’s good news, the Christmas special, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which is on TV about 1000 times each December and might just be the only exception to the rule that the movie is not as good as the book.
The last story I will mention is The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey. Like the other stories, the theme of the work is the importance of reconciliation. In this picture book, the title character comes to grips with his tragic past as he contemplates the nativity and makes the social journey from isolation from his community to reconciliation.
The famous author of the Chronicles of Narnia, CS Lewis wrote fictional works because he believed that he could in that genre make difficult theological truths understandable. I believe that this Christmas, by reading literary Christmas stories, you can help your children understand the way that Jesus has called us to be reconciled to Him. So I encourage you to enjoy some family time this month reading and reflecting on the best gift ever given.