Heading Off a Christmas Coup – Four Ways To Keep Christmas Focused on Christ
Christmas is an enigma.
The Christmas holiday was created to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and yet even people around the world who hate Jesus celebrate it.
I’m thankful – not that anyone hates Jesus, but that much of the world celebrates Jesus whether they intend to or not. God may use it to draw them to Himself and reveal His great love for them.
I confess, though. I’ve been among the grumblers who complain that Christmas has been hijacked. Santa and his gazillion gifts under the tree have taken the world’s eyes off of Jesus.
And now one of his elves is on a shelf? Can we send it to the Island of Misfit Toys?
The good news is we don’t need to panic over a Christmas coup.
Instead, we can simply refocus our families back onto Christ with a little intentionality and a lot of fun.
Four Christmas Strategies: Involve, Invite, Ignore, or Implore
Within any church, you’ll typically find four opinions about Christmas traditions that range from fully involving Santa and other non-biblical traditions to basically imploring his demise.
Involve: Some families choose to fully involve the Santa traditions into their family fun while maintaining their commitment to exalt Christ over all.
Invite: Others invite Santa to have a small part in their family traditions. They use him as a game and a way to point to Jesus and Christ-like giving, not as a man their children should believe in.
Ignore: Some choose to quietly and peaceably ignore Santa and his elf. Santa doesn’t get a visit or a plate of cookies on Christmas Eve, but they don’t criticize families who do.
Implore: A few families implore the Christian community to ban Santa and his cohorts. They maintain Christmas must include only solid Christian traditions. They don’t desire to be critical of those who don’t agree. They’re just passionate about their beliefs.
Let’s look at how we can implement any of these four strategies well.
Ignore and Implore: Christ Alone – Leave Santa on the Shelf
Christmas is a joyous occasion and doesn’t need anyone or anything other than Jesus to make it fun.
Other traditions may enhance your celebration but aren’t necessary. For some families, these other traditions serve only to distract them, and thus they choose to remove them.
If Santa isn’t part of your holiday plans, your challenge centers mainly on how to keep your children from feeling resentful over missing out on some of the fun their Santa-loving friends are having.
But resentments dwindle as excitement rises for the many fun activities available for celebrating Christmas that don’t involve Santa. Between the music, plays, books, and decorations, children can rejoice all season without Santa or his elf.
If this is your choice, I encourage you with this plea: Teach your children not to criticize families who’ve chosen to include Santa and other popular Christmas traditions.
Be careful how you discuss the subject in front of your children. They hear more than we think they do and repeat it to their friends less tactfully than we wish they would.
As a friend of mine said, Santa isn’t Jesus, but he isn’t Satan, either.
If your family bans Santa, ban with benevolence. Let God’s glory and His love for the world He came to save drive you in all you do.
Remember that celebrating Christmas isn’t in the Bible. There are no biblical mandates for celebrating Jesus’ birthday.
He didn’t give His disciples the Great Commission and a Christmas Program.
A Christian could totally ignore Christmas and still be faithful to Scripture.
What encourages us to celebrate is the miraculous biblical account of His birth, the joyful celebration of the angels to the shepherds, and numerous examples of how God commanded His people to celebrate other miraculous events throughout history like Passover.
Involve and Invite: Let Santa Point Your Kids to Jesus
Santa isn’t in the Bible, and he isn’t real. But he was.
I don’t mean the jolly man in the red suit, but St. Nicholas – a bishop from the 4th century with a giving heart and firm commitment to pointing everyone to Christ.
St. Nick’s life inspired the myth that’s morphed into today’s jolly old Santa with a bag of toys for girls and boys, eight flying reindeer, and a fancy sled..
Tell of St. Nick’s Christ-like giving that led to the Santa we know who only gives and never takes– except for the cookies left out for him.
Let Santa point your kids to Christ by displaying his worshipful heart for the Lord Jesus.
Then when they hear the stories of Santa and his reindeer taking gifts to children around the world, they’ll remember the truth of the 4th century St. Nick who inspired Christ-like giving.
Make-believe and truth can work together for the same goal – the glory of God in the celebration of the birth of our Savior Jesus.
When Make-Believe and Truth Meet
Most churches don’t have a problem with pretending. Adults dress up as real Bible characters to teach children true stories from the Bible.
The Good Samaritan was a parable – a story that teaches a spiritual truth – not a real person. He didn’t exist, but we act like he did.
Kids understand make-believe.
As a child, I knew I wasn’t a world-famous singer, Lipizzaner Stallion, or mommy with a new baby, but I pulled off impressive imitations. (At least I impressed myself.)
My son rotated between being a soldier, a cop, and a T-Rex.
Let make-believe be make-believe and truth be truth. Kids can understand and enjoy them both.
Forget the Reindeer Games – Let the Santa Games Begin
Poor Rudolph didn’t get to play in any reindeer games. Perhaps he’d like to play a Santa game.
Use your creativity and turn the tradition of Santa into a fun family game such as these:
1. In the spirit of St. Nicholas, secretly bless a person or family and try not to get caught.
Our family once put an entire turkey dinner onto the doorstep of a single working mom, rang the doorbell, and then ran. We prayed a neighborhood dog wouldn’t wander up and eat it before she found it.
2. In large families, draw names to get to play Santa for the Day.
In the spirit of the popular tradition of Secret Santa, the family member who’s playing Santa secretly displays the love of Jesus in some way to bless a family member sometime during that day without getting caught.
At bedtime the family celebrates what they did and draws a new name for the next day.
On Christmas Eve, Mom or Dad get to be Santa. Then let your kids sleep by the tree to try and “catch Santa” putting out the toys. (Not once did our kids wake up as we put the gifts around the tree.)
I’m always mulling over different ways to play the Santa Game. Got any ideas you want to share? Leave a comment.
Move Over Elf on a Shelf
If your kids are begging you to hide an elf on a shelf, but like me, you find him a bit creepy and demanding, tell the elf to move over.
There’s a new kid in town. The Shepherd on a Search.
This lovable, less-complicated shepherd boy is on a search for the baby Jesus in the manger. I’m excited about this new tradition. (Read about it here.)
One Santa Tradition to Drop
While I enjoy inviting Santa to help us celebrate the birth of Jesus, I recommend dropping at least one Santa tradition. Drop the “Santa is watching you to see if you’re bad or good” thing.
Teaching children that gifts are only for those who are good contradicts the message of Christmas. Jesus didn’t come to earth for the “righteous” but for sinners (Matthew 9:13).
His gift of salvation isn’t based on being good. If it were, none could get saved. We’re all bad through and through (Romans 2:23-26; Jeremiah 17:9).
Celebrate with the World to Win the World
Whether you choose to celebrate Christmas with or without Santa, I pray that those around you who celebrate without Jesus will see Him in you.
The birth of our Savior and their salvation are worth celebrating in style.
Google suggested the book St. Nicholas: The Believer: A New Story For Christmas Based On The Old Story Of St. Nicholas.
The author, Eric Elder, compelled me to hit the Buy button when I read his foreword.
When UPS dropped the book off on my doorstep two days later, I dove into it. Party plans and Christmas decorations forced me to put it down against my will.
Later, my husband and I attended my niece’s ballet performance. As I waited for my husband to park our car, I noticed a book table that contained one book.
My book. Or actually, Eric Elder’s book.
I pointed and exclaimed, “Hey! I just bought that book!”
The lady behind the table nodded to the man standing beside her and said, “He’s the author.”
The smiling author said, “The ballet is based on my book.”
“It is?” I said.
His eyes broadcast his surprise. “You didn’t know that?”
I shrugged and shook my head.
He laughed and asked, “Who do you have performing today?”
I laughed, too, certain I probably appeared to be a pathetic mom, utterly unaware of her own child’s activities.
“I came to watch my niece. My sister told me the ballet was based on a book and the author would be here, but she didn’t tell me the name of the book.”
I told him of my blog post about Christmas.
He told me how he came to write the book and how the South Carolina Christian Dance Theater asked if they could base their Christmas performance “One Life” on his book.
And now we’re best friends.
Ok, we’re not best friends, but we had a fabulous conversation and took pictures together.
(By the way, the ballet interpretation of his book was beautiful — especially my niece.)
St. Nicholas Comes to Life and Inspires
Eric Elder brings St. Nicholas to life through a retelling of God’s work in the ancient bishop’s life starting from his childhood.
Nicholas learned much from the sacrificial example of his mother and father’s generosity to people in need out of their love for Christ.
He now teaches us about Jesus’ love and how to share it through his own sacrificial — and secretive — giving.
“Nicholas had one life to live, but if he lived it right, one life was all he would need.”
As Elder reveals, one life was indeed all Nicholas needed.
The story of St. Nicholas’ life will encourage you to rethink how you live your life and inspire you to celebrate Christmas with greater joy.
Check out the forward to The Believer and then buy your own copy today:
Foreword: St. Nicholas: The Believer: A New Story For Christmas Based On The Old Story Of St. Nicholas by Eric Elder
There was a time when I almost gave up celebrating Christmas.
Our kids were still young and weren’t yet hooked on the idea of Santa Claus and presents, Christmas trees and decorations.
I had read that the Puritans who first came to America were so zealous in their faith that they didn’t celebrate Christmas at all.
Instead, they charged fines to businesses in their community who failed to keep their shops open on Christmas day. They didn’t want anything to do with a holiday that was, they felt, rooted in paganism.
As a new believer and a new father myself, the idea of going against the flow of the excesses of Christmas had its appeal, at least in some respects.
Then I read an article by a man who simply loved celebrating Christmas. He could think of no greater way to celebrate the birth of the most important figure in human history than throwing the grandest of parties for Him—gathering and feasting and sharing gifts with as many of his family and friends as possible.
This man was a pastor of deep faith and great joy.
For him, the joy of Christ’s birth was so wondrous that he reveled in every aspect of Christmas, including all the planning, decorating and activities that went along with it.
He even loved bringing Santa Claus into the festivities, our modern-day version of the very real and very ancient Saint Nicholas, a man of deep faith and great joy as well who Himself worshipped and adored the Baby who was born in Bethlehem.
So why not celebrate the birth of Christ?
Why not make it the biggest party of the year?
Why not make it the “Hap-Happiest season of all”?
I was sold.
Christmas could stay—and my kids would be much hap-happier for it, too.
I dove back into celebrating Christmas with full vigor, and at the same time took a closer look into the life of the real Saint Nicholas, a man who seemed almost irremovably intertwined with this Holy Day.
I discovered that Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus were indeed one and the same and that the Saint Nicholas who lived in the 3rd and 4th centuries after the birth of Christ was truly a devout follower of Christ himself.
As my wife and I read more and more about Nicholas’ fascinating story, we became enthralled with this believer who had already been capturing the hearts and imaginations of believers and nonbelievers alike throughout the centuries.
With so many books and movies that go to great lengths to tell you the “true” story of Santa Claus (and how his reindeer are really powered by everything from eggnog to Coca-Cola), I’ve found that there are very few stories that even come close to describing the actual person of who Saint Nicholas was, and in particular, what he thought about the Man for whom Christmas is named, Jesus Christ.
I was surprised to learn that with all the historical documents that attest to Saint Nicholas’ faith in Christ, compelling tellings of those stories seem to have fallen by the wayside over the ages.
So with the encouragement and help of my sweet wife, Lana, we decided to bring the story of Saint Nicholas back to life for you, with a desire to help you recapture the essence of Christmas for yourself.
While some people, with good reason, may still go to great lengths to try to remove anything that might possibly hint of secularism from this holiest day of the year, it seems to me equally fitting to go to great lengths to try to restore Santa to his rightful place—not as the patron saint of shopping malls, but as a beacon of light that shines brightly on the One for whom this Holy Day is named.
It is with deep faith and great joy that I offer you this Christmas novella—a little story.
I’ve enjoyed telling it and I hope you’ll enjoy hearing it.
It just may be the most human telling of the story of Saint Nicholas you’ve ever heard.
Above all, I pray that God will use this story to rekindle your love, not only for this season of the year but for the One who makes this season so bright.
Available on Amazon.
C is for Christmas – An Alphabet Book That Celebrates the Birth of Jesus and the Joy of Holiday Traditions
Christmas – That Magical Time of Year
Christmas. It’s magical.
The birth of our Lord. Traditions passed down for generations. Hearts united.
We want our children to enjoy all Christmas has to offer, but for the right reason.
Not because Santa dropped a pile of gifts at the foot of their tree, but because God gave the ultimate gift – His Son Jesus Christ.
Santa – Is He Good or Bad for Christmas
Santa is a wonderful model of giving. The only thing he takes is the cookies and milk left out for him.
But over time, he’s gained more and more of the prominence of Christmas as Jesus has been slowly edited out.
Must we shun Santa to ensure he doesn’t steal Jesus’ limelight?
Or can Santa actually serve our children’s understanding of Jesus?
We all must choose for our own conscience, but I say Santa’s good for Christmas when he’s revealed as a worshipper of Jesus, not an object of worship.
The original St. Nick who inspired our modern-day Santa was actually a Christ-follower who dedicated his life to sharing the love of Jesus with those in need.
He was careful not to steal an ounce of Jesus’ glory for himself.
Our modern-day Santa may not resemble the original inspiration, but in our own homes, we can bring the heart of the “real Santa” back so Santa magnifies Jesus rather than minimizes Him.
Children’s author Michelle Medlock Adams feels the same way.
“From the crèche to the eggnog, author Michelle Medlock Adams loves everything about Christmas.
She welcomes the season as a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus and the joy of numerous holiday traditions, including sharing picture books with young readers.
“Yet she couldn’t help but notice that parents choosing a holiday book to read with their children were often forced to decide between a Christian nativity-type book or a more secular Santa- oriented book.
Since her family, like many others, celebrates both aspects of the season, the acclaimed author decided to create her own ABC holiday book encompassing the best of both worlds.
Medlock Adams comments, ‘Unabashedly proud of playing Christmas music in October, I love everything about the season, from visiting Santa’s workshop to attending the candlelight Christmas Eve service.
This beautiful book brings together the very best elements of the season.’”
C is for Christmas (And also for Christ)
Michelle wrote C is for Christmas for families who also love all the season has to offer, but most of all, they love Jesus.
This new adorable alphabet book published by Little Lamb Booksand illustrated by Louise Hargreavesmixes fact and fiction without lessening the truth of Jesus or elevating Santa.
The fun Christmas traditions of baking, giving presents, and that jolly man in a red suit merely support the real reason for the season. They don’t detract from Him.
In the only two references to Santa, one directly points to Jesus.
C is for Christmas.
CHRISTMAS comes just once a year. It is a special season.
Santa Claus is really great, but Jesus is the reason!
The other reference could allow for someone in the family to play Santa.
Q is for QUIET.
All is QUIET on Christmas Eve, once everyone’s in bed.
We try to stay awake and see that jolly man in red.
The Common Expressed in an Uncommon Way
Christmas books and alphabet books abound. They’re often predictable.
But not Michelle’s. She introduces less common words for much of the alphabet such as E is for EARTH and U is for UNDER.
How many times have earth and under been the first words to spring to your mind when you thought of these letters? Never?
E is for EARTH.
Jesus Christ was born on EARTH on that first Christmas day.
God sent his son to share his love and take our sins away.
U is for UNDER.
After we wrap the Christmas gifts, they go UNDER the tree.
But puppy likes to lie there, too. Mom says, “Just let him be.”
Like me, did you assume “J” would stand for Jesus?
In C is for Christmas, Michelle introduces the letter “J”with Joseph holding the newborn baby Jesus.
J is for Joseph.
When Joseph finally saw the child, his heart was filled with joy.
He said, “Jesus will be his name.” He’s Daddy’s special boy.
Christmas may seem common, celebrated around the world. But it will forever be uncommon because it’s the celebration of our Creator and Savior coming down to earth, born to save the least deserving of His creation – us.
Michelle’s book C is for Christmas is a delightful addition to this uncommon time of year. A tradition you and your kids will enjoy reading long after they’ve mastered the alphabet.
Award-winning, bestselling author Michelle Medlock Adams embraces the true meaning of Christmas as well as the holiday traditions she and her husband, Jeff, have made for their family over the last twenty-seven years. Author of eighty-plus books, Michelle has won more than twenty-five writing awards for her children’s books, including four SELAH awards and a Golden Scroll. She is the president of Platinum Literary Services, a premier full-service literary firm, and also serves as chair of the board for Serious Writer Inc. She is a sought-after speaker, respected teacher, and genuine encourager who loves bass fishing and being GiGi to grandson Bear. You can learn more about Michelle at www.michellemedlockadams.com.
More about the Publisher:
Little Lamb Books is a Texas-based trade publishing company striving to shepherd the next generation of faithful readers by encouraging their faith, inspiring their love of reading, and delighting their imagination through creative and entertaining literary works. C is for Christmas is the company’s first holiday-focused picture book.
RUTH ~ How to Find Jesus in the Book of Ruth (Plus a Short Summary)
RUTH ~ Book #8
“Then the women said to Naomi, ‘Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel!'” ~ Ruth 4:14
In Ruth, God uses an unlikely romance to spotlight His faithful promise to provide His destitute Bride a Redeemer.
If you’re reading the Bible in order, you’re probably still numb from reading the book of Judges, where everyone did what was right in his own wretched and perverted eyes.
As we saw:
Joshua focuses on the Israelites conquering the Canaanites physically.
Judges focuses on the Canaanites conquering the Israelites spiritually.
Ruth focuses on the hope of God’s promise to provide a Redeemer for His destitute bride.
(I got those three descriptions from a great Bible teacher and my friend, Dede Gavlin. Thanks, Dede!)
While Judges enrages our hearts, Ruth lifts them with its unusual love story and reveals a hope that doesn’t disappoint.
The Destitute Bride (Ruth 1)
When we flip to the first page of the book of Ruth, we discover God had crushed the land of Israel under a famine.
(If you’re curious about why God would do that to His own people, check out the book of Judges. Trust me, you’d have crushed them, too.)
To flee the famine, Elimelech of Bethlehem took his wife, Naomi, and their two sons to sojourn—not stay—in the land of Moab.
(This was a strange choice since the Moabites were enemies of God.)
In the land of Moab, tragedy befell them. Thrice. (That’s old-fashioned for “three times.”)
1. Naomi’s husband Elimelech died
Painful, BUT, praise God, their two sons could care for Naomi.
The sons then married Moabite women — depsite God’s law forbidding Israelites to marry Moabites. Perhaps Naomi thought they could provide her with grandsons to care for her as well.
2. One son died
Tragic, BUT, praise God, Naomi still had one more son to care for her and his brother’s wife. And perhaps they could give her a grandson or two?
3. The other son died
Sure, Naomi and her two daughters-in-law were still alive, but they were now destitute. Utterly destitute. Neither daughter-in-law had even given birth to a child who could grow up and care for them.
Naomi looked around at her foreign home and helpless state. She had nothing left but God. (Which means she had all she needed, but she didn’t quite realize that yet.)
Hope (Ruth 1-2)
Word reached Naomi that the Lord had given His people food in Israel.
It was time to go home.
Naomi’s daughters-in-law set out with her, but Naomi urged them to return to their families in Moab and their gods.
Orpah hugged Naomi and left.
Ruth clung to Naomi. She refused to leave her.
But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more. ~ Ruth 1:16-18, NASB
(Interesting Note: This passage is quite popular for weddings. I wonder how many realize this declaration of love wasn’t voiced to a beloved groom by his bride, but by a daughter-in-law to her mother-in-law. Take that, mother-in-law jokes!)
Naomi returned to Jerusalem with an empty belly and a bitter heart. But she still had Ruth. Sweet, faithful Ruth.
Ruth rose early to glean—to scavenge pieces of grain dropped by the harvesters in the fields.
It just so happened that she found herself gleaning in the field of Boaz, one of Naomi’s rich relatives. (It so happened? Yeah, right. We can be sure it was God’s hand at work.)
Boaz learned of Ruth’s stellar reputation and kindness to Naomi. He, in turn, showed Ruth kindness. He gave her extra grain to share with Naomi and a doggy bag from lunch.
When Ruth told Naomi that Boaz owned the field, Naomi’s heart leaped, and her faith set down new roots because she knew something Ruth didn’t:
“The kinsman-redeemer is a male relative who, according to various laws of the Pentateuch [the first five books of the Bible], had the privilege or responsibility to act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble, danger, or need. The Hebrew term (go el) for kinsman-redeemer designates one who delivers or rescues (Genesis 48:16; Exodus 6:6) or redeems property or person (Leviticus 27:9–25, 25:47–55).” (quoted from GotQuestions.com)
The kinsman-redeemer could redeem property or even a widowed wife by marrying her and caring for her.
But only a family member who was willing and able could pay the redemption price.
He had to be free of personal debt.
Back to Our Story . . .
Ruth Gets a Redeemer (Ruth 3 & 4)
Following Naomi’s instructions for appealing to Boaz as her kinsman redeemer, Ruth prepared herself as a bride.
Then she waited until he fell asleep on the threshing floor and lay down at his feet.
(I agree if this sounds strange to you. But it made sense in those days. Boaz slept on the threshing floor to protect the grain from thieves. And Ruth’s lying at his feet was actually a respectful way to say, “I’d like you to be my kinsman redeemer.”)
Boaz was both willing and able to redeem Ruth. Yay!
But there was a man who was an even closer relative than Boaz. This man must be given the chance to redeem Ruth. Ugh.
Boaz sat down with this other relative (along with witnesses), and just as he’d hoped, the man was able to redeem Ruth but not willing.
With much joy, Boaz redeemed Ruth and took her as his beloved bride.
Ruth, the Moabite, had once been an enemy of God. But through her faith in Him, she became a friend of God and her kinsman redeemer’s bride.
In time, the Lord blessed Ruth and Boaz with a son, Obed.
No longer destitute or without a family, the salvation of the Lord through their kinsman redeemer filled them with joy and peace.
Ruth and Naomi praised God as Naomi cradled her grandson and the women of Israel called her blessed.
The book of Ruth closes with a peek into the future and a fun fact:
Ruth and Boaz’s son Obed was the ancestor of King David, Israel’s greatest king, and of Jesus Christ, our Kinsman Redeemer.
Jesus, Our Kinsman Redeemer
The kinsman redeemer is one of the Old Testament’s most powerful pictures of Jesus, our Kinsman Redeemer.
Only Jesus could ever qualify to serve as our Redeemer.
Jesus was free of all debt. Born of a virgin, He was free of inherited sin.
The rest of us are born with sin. It’s passed down from our first father, Adam.
Despite Satan’s best but futile efforts to tempt Jesus in sin, He never fell for any of Satan’s lies. He remained debt-free of sin.
Which means, Jesus was willing and able to pay our redemption price through His death on the cross.
Out of His great love and riches, Jesus redeemed us.
All who accept Jesus as their Kinsman Redeemer become members of His precious Bride, the church (aka known as the family of Believers).
He bought us with a bride price much greater than the price Boaz paid for Ruth. He bought us with His own shed blood on the cross.
Today is the Day of Salvation
If you’ve not accepted Christ as your Kinsman Redeemer, today is the perfect day for it. Naomi’s husband and sons remind us we’re not promised tomorrow.
God alone knows the number of our days. Trust in your Kinsman Redeemer Jesus today.
(And please let me know when you do, so I can celebrate with you.)