By Jaime Jo Wright, Crosswalk.com
The world seems to be changing swiftly, and with that change comes a renewed longing for the nostalgia of Christmas. The reunion of family, the peace that we envision around fireplaces crackling, gingersnap cookies, and peppermint hot cocoa. We long for every word in the Christmas carols to come true. Peace on earth. Goodwill toward men.
And outside, the storm is raging.
It’s sort of curious to note that many of the Christmas carols we sing were popularized during wartime. My personal favorite, White Christmas, was a direct result of the war, and I’ll be Home for Christmas, croons that haunting need for togetherness. It seems during the darker years, Christmas becomes not only a favored holiday, but a needed holiday. Like the wise men focused on the guiding star over Bethlehem, it becomes a beacon of hope that we cling to.
As we ponder Christmas, in our shadows are our children. They, too, ponder it and will follow our examples. Are you overwhelmed with anxiety and stress? No matter how you try to hide it, your children will sense it. Does the loss of a loved one besiege you? No matter how many fake smiles you plaster on your face, your children will sense it. Are you burdened by the world around you, the pressures, the turmoil? No matter how you spin the recent events and try to mask the burden, your children will sense it.
So, what do we teach our children this Christmas, when Christmas for us, seems like reaching out and trying to grasp a wisp of hope? How do we communicate the life and hope that revolves around a traditional Western Christmas, and how do we capture that old-fashioned feeling of sleigh rides and jingle bells while the bombs of life fall outside our windows?
I think the important truths we teach our children this Christmas are also ones we must teach ourselves because, through our example, our children will develop their perspectives on Christmas.
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1. Teach them hope.
Hope is an elusive thing. And while it isn’t tangible, we often attribute hope to being that sense of anticipation that drowns out the elements of dread. This is not hope. Hope is a state of expectation; it’s a desire for something to happen. It’s a belief, per se, that the unseen will become a reality. But hope doesn’t drown out reality. It doesn’t mask it. If anything, hope reveals more about the circumstances that we are in and how we long for escape. But hope can be a promise too. We have faith that it is a promise to be kept.
Christmas is a season of hope. Consider the circumstances into which Jesus was born. A stable (not of the clean American sort), a teenage mother with no experience with a man and yet under the scandalous nature of betrothment to a man while pregnant. A society that was, for all sakes and purposes, spiraling under the brutal rule of a king who didn’t spare a child, let alone a parent or a grandparent. Life was undervalued. You were a number on a piece of parchment that equaled monetary reimbursement to a government that did little for you and answered to a Roman rule that was like a dragon breathing fire into every town’s sense of tentative peace.
Such are not the circumstances that scream nostalgic Christmas. They don’t even scream hope. They cry of desperation and depression, of embitterment and imprisonment. In our Sunday School form of answering, this is when we introduce the birth of a Savior as the beacon of hope. And yes, the Christ-child was just that. But please note - when he was born, he did not instill hope in the people. All that was heard in the night was the screams of a mother giving birth, a baby crying its first gasp of oxygen, and perhaps the bass murmurs of a man who was a father to a son not his own and beyond his understanding already. The world continued in its desperation. Lights didn’t flicker. The evening news didn’t interrupt local programming with an announcement of a movement toward hope.
Silent night was truly silent. And yet, there was hope.
You see, we must teach our children hope regardless of the circumstances. We must cling to the hope that is in the Christ-child, even as the world rages ugly around us. Hope is not the erasing of turbulence and fire. Hope is the flicker in the distance that helps us strain through the turbulence and shake off the fire. It is a promise of something better that is coming, not a resolution and erasing of the darkness in which we live.
2. Teach them joy.
Joy to the World. A popular carol sung with almost robotic joy every season in churches around the world. The Lord has come. Heaven and nature sing. So, we do. In rote, habitual fortitude. We can sometimes even reach down inside of ourselves and grip hold of some form of a feeling that brings a moment of peace and a smile.
But what is joy? Someone once compared happiness and joy to a balloon. Happiness pops easily. It is based on circumstances and is as fleeting as the moment in which it’s found. Joy, on the other hand, is there regardless of what surrounds us. It is a state of being, finding contentment, and flourishing despite what is happening around us.
Joy is almost synonymous with hope, to be honest. To have joy is to hope in something. To have nothing to hope in is to despair. By teaching our children the promise that is the Christ-child, the eternal hope, the salvation from sin, the overwhelming gift of God’s grace, and an eternity of reunion and joy, we teach our children that amid a fiery furnace of life, we can hold on to joy. Joy is here. It is now. It is a state of mind we can rest in as we focus on hope because hope brings us joy. And joy brings us peace.
Christmas, in reality, reflects eternity. Let’s be honest. Eternity is a blessed reunion with Jesus, face to face. It is a reunion with those of the faith who have gone before us. It is a promise of no more tears. There will be no pain. A new heaven. A new earth. A glorious future filled with so much unknown excitement the anticipation can be palpable if you really allow your soul to breathe deep of the Scriptural promises of God. In an offhand sort of way, eternity is what we long for Christmas to be. We want to capture, in one night, a taste of what is coming. The sweetness of hope, the tang of joy, and the encompassing peace they bring with them. And we can teach this to our children. So, when they watch us, they see us hoping in things to come, in promises that God has given that He will not betray. They will see us finding joy in the middle of crisis or grief or sickness, and they will be able to attribute that joy to the hope we have in Jesus, the Christ child. In this, we will all find peace.
These are the two most important gifts you can give to your children this year and for the years to come. Instill in them who Jesus is. Christmas is a tiny grasp at eternity. Don’t let it slip away.
Jaime Jo Wright is the winner of the Carol, Daphne du Maurier, and INSPY Awards. She's also the Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestselling author of three novellas. The Christy Award-Winning author of “The House on Foster Hill”, Jaime Jo Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing suspenseful mysteries stained with history's secrets. Jaime lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimewrightbooks.com!