‘Dad, did baby Jesus cry?’ — 3 ways to teach your children great theological truths this Christmas

The Adoration of the Shepherds (Gerard van Honthorst), 1622.

The Adoration of the Shepherds (Gerard van Honthorst), 1622.

Kids have a way of asking questions we adults have never pondered.

Once, my inquisitive son was reading a science book and looked up at me with a puzzled look.

“Dad, are there germs on germs?”

I was confused, and he knew it.

“Yeah,” he continued. “There are germs on us. But are there germs on those germs, and then germs on those other germs, then germs on those germs?”

Maybe he was hoping that all those germs would duke it out in a battle royal and kill one another – and we’d never get sick.

Honestly, I’m still not sure what the answer is.

But the other night he asked me a relatively easy one.

“Dad, did baby Jesus cry?”

“Of course,” I responded.

“Huh?” he replied, sort of shocked.

“All babies cry, because that’s how they communicate,” I said. “And it’s not a sin for a baby to cry.”

He had been singing “Away In A Manger,” a wonderful Christmas tune that has the unfortunate lyric concerning the Christ Child: “No crying he made.”

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year to reinforce the Gospel to our children, simply because everyone they know – their friends, their teachers, their neighbors – is celebrating it. In other words, our children can’t go anywhere without being reminded of Christmas, even if it is a sanitized, secular version.

But we don’t have to battle the local box store to put “Christ back into Christmas.” We can do that in our homes, beginning by what we tell our kids about Jesus.

Here’s three ways parents can teach their children deep theological truths about Christ this season, using simple language:
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4 countercultural reasons my family doesn’t celebrate Santa (and why my kids think he’s Noah)

4 countercultural reasons my family doesn’t celebrate Santa (and why my kids think he’s Noah)

I don’t own a pair of those record-everything “Google Glasses,” but there are times I wish they had been invented much sooner.

Like the moment in 2010 when my oldest son – then 2 – first saw an image of Santa Claus. He and I had been enjoying a father-son night at a Cracker Barrel restaurant, having just finished off a shared plate of chicken and dumplings after coloring the kids’ menu.

But before leaving we wanted one more moment in front of the restaurant’s fireplace, and it was that moment I could have used those Google Glasses.

“Noah!” he shouted.

Caught off guard and trying not to laugh, I replied, “Did you say Noah?”

“Yeah, Noah!” he excitedly responded, pointing upward at the fireplace mantle, where a small statuette of Santa Claus resided.

And then it hit me: This is how a child who has not been raised to know anything about Santa responds.

I grew up believing in Santa – studying toy catalogs and writing letters to the North Pole — but when I reached adulthood I pretty much decided that I didn’t want to continue that tradition with my children. And then I married someone who felt the same way. And so it was an easy decision: We wouldn’t “do Santa.”

Of course, such a decision would have no impact on anyone at all if my family lived in the Alaskan wilderness or in the northern parts of British Columbia or pretty much anywhere in Wyoming. But we don’t. We live in a town near a mid-sized city. We interact with people, and our kids do, too.

When our kids were very little, we never mentioned Santa around them. No books about Santa. No TV shows about him. Nothing. When strangers asked them what Santa was bringing them for Christmas, they responded with a “what-planet-are-you-from” look – and we all laughed.

As they aged, though, they learned from friends who Santa was. But because we didn’t reinforce the Santa story at home, they naturally placed him alongside other fictional characters such as Clifford The Big Red Dog and Charlie Brown. It was only when they were 5 or 6 and running into friends who “believe in” Santa that they came home with questions. And so we tell them that some families practice Santa and some kids believe he’s real — and that we shouldn’t ruin it for them. But, of course, kids are kids, and everything doesn’t always go as planned.

Sadly, Santa has turned into one of those taboo subjects for Christians that we can’t discuss without dividing into camps, getting angry, and questioning everyone’s motives, patriotism and faith. We have friends on both sides of this, and we get along just fine.

My family does eat apple pie and we do celebrate the Fourth of July and we even like baseball. We just don’t “do Santa.” Here’s four reasons why:
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