Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Anticipation: Recovering the Wonder of Advent Part 2: Grace Not Guilt

Leave Off Behavior Focused Holidays!

You'd better watch out
You'd better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town. 

The elf on the shelf watches. Santa is making a list so you better behave. If you don't behave or if you're too selfish you might not get...The holidays are full of empty silly threats.

 I've started wondering if the constant use of these shift the heart's focus off the redeeming substitutionary work of Jesus. Why? Whether simply for fun or at times a useful alternative to counting  the child is subtly given the message good gifts are earned.

Should the message of Christmas be "be good so you can get something"? Is that why He came? I want to teach T & F Jesus came because they aren't good, he is. I want them to learn we do good from a changed heart, not from a bribe. Isn't it encouraging greed? Isn't "best behavior" then about self-centeredness rather than selflessness?

Such constant reminders- verbal and visual- may just give the season a human-centered tone rather than God-centered. Just think with me a moment. Think of the examples I opened this section with and contrast it to Jesus. We can do nothing to earn the ultimate gift.

Now I'm not saying it's bad to hang Christmas stockings. We do. But Santa is treated as a fairy tale on par with Hansel And Gretel. It was when i was a child too. Stockings were hung by the chimney with care. We left cookies out for Santa knowing full well he was really our parents. And it was fun! Grandma gave us books like Santa Are You For Real and VHS movies about Saint Nicholas alongside Cajun Night Before Christmas and a beautiful pop up Night Before Christmas. Santa, or rather Saint Nick, inspired us. When were children my sister and I used to fill each other's secretly in the spirit of the original Santa, Bishop Nicholas. It's not a bad thing in and of itself. Just playing the "he's watching" game, I believe,  builds the wrong sort of anticipation.

 If we want our kids to understand gifts aren't merited by our behavior then lay off the empty threats. When my child struggles at Christmas I need to do what I should year round. Discuss the glorious character of God and the nature of his grace. Bring them back to the gospel.

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