It was great to be at Moolap and Barrabool Hills Baptist Church on Sunday across all three of their services.
Seated in one of the services was a lady who had recently lost her husband … and when I say recently, I mean super recently … 4 days earlier! She was there with a girlfriend who had come to stay with her – clearly still in that numb state of shock and disbelief that can often accompany grief and loss. But they were both blown away by the sovereignty of God to have her sit under a message about the importance of community and family for the Single person. Her girlfriend was challenged to understand the new needs and challenges that were ahead of this newly widowed lady. They bought a copy of the book for them both to look at in the weeks and months to come.
What do you say to someone who is processing such grief and loss? She was so convinced of God’s timing and provision of this message (& the book) and we were able to agree and affirm that God clearly had her number. While everything else ahead of her is uncertain right now – she can be sure that God is right there with her in it.
You can listen to the message HERE
Parents will sometimes talk to me about the struggle it can be to get their young people to church. It can be hard for a whole range of reasons – tiredness or sickness, insecurities or relational tensions, ‘boredom’ and the lure of other events (sports, birthday parties etc). But parents can also be faced with resistance to church attendance as a child starts to gain (and fight for) degrees of independence and particularly as they transition from a church’s children’s ministry into “adult church”.
I don’t believe the importance of church (a gathered community of believers) attendance can be overstated. Many would posit that they can ‘do faith’ without regular church participation or aside from meaningful engagement with a faith community but my understanding of the place of the church in God’s plans – as well as research and anecdotal observations over many years – tells me otherwise.
In Kids Ministry and more incidental interactions with children at this time of year, I’m always interested to see how children of various ages process the conundrum of Jesus “versus” Santa! Every church going child knows that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus and yet, often, the presents that miraculously appear under the tree on Christmas morning have come from Santa (we know this because the cookies were eaten and his reindeer left half-eaten carrots on the driveway!). Obviously our community celebrates a Santa-driven Christmas season and yet we sing songs like “Away in a Manger” and have donkeys and camels in the nativity pictures. How can we reconcile the two?
Teaching Grade 2 (at a Christian school) there were always a few children who would loudly proclaim to all that Santa wasn’t real and even a couple that would go so far as to say he was ‘of the Devil’. There were then many conversations to be had with distraught children (or less-than-impressed parents) whose Christmas paradigm had been shattered.
My response was always to gently remind the children that all families have different ways of celebrating special occasions and, at Christmas, some of them have Santa as part of their tradition. Generally this was enough to quiet the militant few and was innocuous enough to allow the ‘believers’ to continue in whatever their family had raised them to consider as ‘right’.
The breadth of Christian response to “the Santa Question” stretches from here to the North Pole and I would never pronounce judgement on anyone for the choices they make within that … just some thoughts to ponder.
- If you decide to include the ‘make believe’ of Santa in your family traditions, be sure to speak clearly to how that matches up with the real story of Christmas. There aren’t two different occasions being celebrated here – just the one; Jesus’ birthday. How do Santa and presents help us celebrate a special day?
- The unfortunate flow-on effect of the Santa-based Christmas model is that the focus becomes all about “ME”!! What do I want for Christmas? What will Santa bring ME? If I am good I’ll get everything I want! The REAL story of Christmas is that God made sure we would have EVERYTHING we would ever NEED!! The humble nature of the nativity tells us that serving and giving are more important than getting and “things”. Children need our help to not lose sight of that.
- Christmas is a time of awe and wonder for children. Who isn’t captivated by the sight of a small child whose tired face is lit up by a candle as they sing carols with their family or by the glow of Christmas lights tinkling on their tree; Christmas stockings that go from flat and limp to bulging with goodies – all while we’re asleep (whoever delivers them there)?! But I can’t think of anything more awe inspiring or worthy of our wide-eyed wonder than the truth that the God of the Universe would make Himself to be a human child. Born to a place and in a manner that even our pets wouldn’t have to endure. The greatest gift we could ever conceive and an act of the greatest love we will ever know.
What about you? How do you manage the “Jesus/Santa” question in your household and family?
I LOVE Christmas! I do! It brings together all of my favourite things (Jesus, worship, family, friends, food, presents and celebrating) in the one internationally sanctioned season!! I love it!
Your attitude to the Christmas season may be slightly less enthusiastic than mine – in fact, it may be diametrically opposed – because we all have different experiences to draw on and expectations that we foster.
Here’s the first of “12 thoughts of Christmas” as we look to doing the Christmas season WELL!
Of course, you’re all in various stages of preparation for different aspects of the Christmas season. For some, your ‘to-do’ list is nearly all crossed off. For others, you are perfecting the art of denial and hoping that if you ignore it long enough it will all do itself!! 🙂
Many churches and faith traditions celebrate this season of “advent”. The process of counting down, of looking ahead and of preparation. Some of you may even have an advent calendar in your home. The best ones have a chocolate or a treat that you get to enjoy as you mark off each day on the countdown to December 25th.
Over 2000 years ago the world was in a season of preparation that had been thousands of years in the making! If you read the first few chapters of the book of Mark in the Bible you see the process unfolding. The prophecies of Jesus’ impending arrival were finally coming to pass. Mary is visited by the angel Gabriel and becomes pregnant by the Spirit of God … her season of preparation was well and truly come! Joseph responds to God’s call to be Jesus’ earthly father and weds Mary. Jesus the Messiah was to be born!
In the Christmas Carol “Joy to the World” we see the line “let every heart prepare Him room”. That’s the kind of preparations we need to be including on our ‘to-do’ list. It’s easy to be so absorbed by the busyness of the season and the various tasks that need to be done that we lose sight of what this time really represents. The Saviour of the world has come! God has come to earth in flesh – “Emmanuel” (God is with us).
How do you include this kind of preparation in your family life at this time? What stories do you tell, what activities do you do, or what reminders do you have around your house? Let me encourage you to consider this – and share your ideas below for others to use as well!