Imagine beings from outer space arriving on our planet the first week in December. They would have to choose one house to secretly observe and they select yours. From the first week in December until the twenty-fifth they watch a tremendous build-up for some kind of celebration called Christmas. This is a time when parents pass on something to their children. What would be the aliens take-away from your home? What would they report they saw you passing on to your children? What is this celebration all about?
For many church goers, the Christmas celebration would appear to be focused totally on the giving and receiving of gifts. The Magi gave gifts so we give gifts. The difference though is the motivation behind their gift giving. They gave to celebrate the birth on Christ. We give to …?
It's almost as if many years ago a clandestine meeting of marketers took place. They decided to come up with a plan to create an end-of-the-year buying frenzy. One that would make people feel obligated to buy extravagant gifts for everyone they knew.
The aliens observing might think this was a brilliant economic decision to help store owners end the year in the black. “We’ve got it,” they would say. “On December 26, they all ban together and go into a huge buying frenzy, lavishing their children with toys so they can stimulate the economy.”
The loser in this Christmas paradigm, however, is the child. Ironically, even though the alien watches the children receive much in the way of toys for that day, the child actually receives little in the way of answers for all of life.
Parents even compete with other parents not to use Christmas to give the answers for life; but to purchase more and more stuff for their children. The first day back at school the question about this Christmas orgy will not be “what did you learn,” but rather what did you get … “what did you get for Christmas?”
The aliens will walk away feeling sorry for a generation of children that got nothing for Christmas but things! The aliens will realize that there is a generation being taught that happiness comes from getting, rather than giving. Yet, if the alien actually goes to church during his stay, they will probably hear the verse that says “It is better to give than receive.” (Acts 20:35)
“Wow! If I’m confused” think how our alien visitors must feel, “I can’t imagine how confused those children must be!”
In all reality, we do have someone not of this world watching how we handle His birthday celebration. It’s probably not a matter of taking away the presents as much as it is a matter of perspective; getting your family focused this Christmas season with the right perspective. The gifts are not the problem. The Magi gave gifts that were about Jesus but were actually for the ones Jesus loved; His parents. They were able to use these gifts to do their unexpected traveling to another country.
This Christmas let’s decide that we are going to put Christ back at the center. That the story of the birth of Christ is the gift we will unwrap for our children. Let’s decide to give gifts not only to each other but to people in need. Find someone in your world that you can help this Christmas. It’s not for them. Their need just provides the opportunity to give a gift to God and teach the children the joy of giving.
There is someone that is not of this world watching our Christmas celebration this year. It’s the celebration of His birth. He needs nothing; but our children desperately need to know Him. Give the gift of focus this year. Focus more on the birth of Christ and less on the giving of gifts.
This incredible one month preparation and celebration teaches something to your children. What will they take away from this Christmas celebration? If you knew someone not of this world was watching, what would you do differently? He is and He’s rooting for you to bring the children to Him.
Dr. Bob Barnes is the president of Sheridan House Family Ministries. He and his wife, Rosemary, are authors and speakers on marraige and family issues.