I love the weeks preceding Christmas when the night skies are flickering with multi-colored lights and the house smells of logs burning in the fireplace. I even enjoy the crisp cold bite in the air when I walk outside. I just wish there was a thick blanket of snow on the ground so I could go sledding, but that rarely happens in the South.
There’s something truly magical in the air as the world anticipates the Christmas holiday. However, for some kids, it can be a time of hurt and disappointment, or even confusion.
When I was 7 years old, that Christmas magic was suddenly ripped out of my life when another kid told me the truth about Santa. I felt abandoned, angry and foolish for believing such an elaborate lie. All my hope and trust was vanquished the moment my eyes were opened to the harsh reality that I had been conned…by my own parents. And as a natural consequence, I doubted everything else they tried to teach me…like who God is. For many years I struggled to know who I could trust to keep me informed of the truths in life, and to help me navigate the tumultuous world of uncertainty that surrounded me.
So, here are four ways I believe we can help avoid doubt and confusion for our kids and keep the Christmas magic alive:
1. Encourage Dreaming and Imagination
Playing, pretending, and making up characters and stories is a very important part of childhood. I believe we should encourage creative thinking and storytelling as much as possible. It helps develop our imagination and problem-solving skills. Just be careful not to confuse truth with folklore and help kids distinguish the difference…especially if they have SPD, autism or aspergers, because they tend to believe things very literally.
2. Share the Truth of Christmas
The story of Christ coming to earth is even more awe-inspiring and magical than the story of Santa, in my opinion. And it’s TRUE. Why would anyone want to worship some fat old guy at the mall who has a bag of toys over what Christ has to offer? Unfortunately we live in a world where the lines between truth and fiction are getting more and more blurred. Our kids depend on us to provide clarity and direction.
3. Celebrate Giving, Not Getting
As a child, every TV commercial I saw and person I met steered me to believe that Christmas was all about getting a bunch of toys. It was a holiday marked by an overabundance of things wrapped in boxes that I only played with a few times before they were broken or tossed to the side. We need to teach our kids to have a spirit of generosity and gratefulness, instead of fueling a spirit of entitlement or materialism. Sharing what we have with others can create a truly magical moment for everyone involved.
4. Our Behavior Doesn’t Dictate the Best Gift We’re Offered
The whole philosophy of Santa is contrary to the real truth. I was taught to behave so that he would give me whatever I wanted. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe we should reward good behavior as we teach our children to obey. But our kids need to understand that love isn’t conditional. Christ offers us salvation, even while we are misbehaving. Our behavior has nothing to do with His invitation into a relationship, or getting into heaven. It’s not about how good we are, it’s about how good HE is. When Christ died on the cross, He paid the penalty for all of our sins. We simply need to recognize our need, believe in Him, and accept His free gift.
As a rambunctious kid, I was never good enough to appease Santa. It’s probably why he never brought me the shiny green drum kit I always asked him for. But when I finally understood the truth about Christ and surrendered my life to Him, I received the most awesome gift of all…eternal life. But it doesn’t stop there. God continues to bless me with peace, joy and more self-control for the life I have here, which is far more valuable than “stuff”.
As you celebrate Christmas this year, I encourage you to keep the magic alive by being insanely generous to as many people as you can. And get creative! But most of all, don’t allow anything to overshadow the real reason we celebrate.