“How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, His precepts!”
– Benjamin Franklin
Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time. -Laura Ingalls Wilder
Some say that it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Others, the most stressful. To me, it is what you make it. Having an almost-two-year-old this year has certainly helped to make this season wonderful. While moments of stress certainly do occur when I’m trying to wrap presents and Ellie insists on adding her own bazillion pieces of tape, overall having a young child brings a certain joy to the season. You see the world through their eyes and are caught up inn the wonder, adventure, and excitement of it all.
However, it is also a season of choice. The age old religious debate: to Santa Clause or not? I grew up “believing” in the Jolly Old Fellow. As a child, my extended family were all “believers” and so it was really inescapable. But Ellie is blessed with an extended family of those who believe in Him who began this yearly tradition with His lowly birth. And so, we decided not to encourage the whole Santa Clause story. In my opinion, this is easier! Not having to try to convince and keep convincing my child that this man in the North Pole is real is way less stressful than focusing on the Truth of this season. Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means condemning any Christian who chooses to embrace Santa Clause with their children. My husband and I have simply chosen a different perspective.
And it really has been quite an adventure.
During Thanksgiving I figured that if we were going to to this, we were going to do it right. It’s basically the only way my mind works. There is a right way and a wrong way and major anxious meltdown if things don’t go the “right” way. But anyways, that is a different story for a different time. So, luckily my mom had given use a great little curriculum of sorts to celebrate Advent. So we decided to go ahead and use it with Ellie. This Advent curriculum contained a story book and 12 ornaments for the tree. Each of the 12 lessons focuses on a name of God; which I always find to be so encouraging. I thought it might be a little bit over Ellie’s head, but hey, why not go a head and give it a try? Unfortunately, this awesome Adorenaments curriculum is no longer available through Family Life; we were so lucky to have my mom pass it on!
So try we did. And she fell in love. The first ornament was the Baby Jesus…day after day she would run over to that Christmas tree and stand there and say “Hi Baby Jesus.” When she went to bed at night it was back to the tree for “Bye Baby Jesus, love you!” So we continued reading each devotional about the meaning of the names of God and how they relate to Christmas and Ellie would excitedly hang each ornament on the tree. Of course, who knows how much she is really taking in and understanding. But hearing your not-even-two-year-old talk about baby Jesus brings so much hope to your heart regarding their future relationship with Him. Besides, as an early childhood educator I believe firmly in the importance of early experience in shaping a child’s life. It is never too young to begin teaching, and you never know just what children are “catching” …until they spill all that they’ve been absorbing in a breathtaking display of their new-found knowledge.
Through the eyes of a child…you feel that wonder and excitement to learn about the One who created you, that thirst; even at almost-two. Ellie practically begs to “read Christmas story, dad?!” every day. It’s beautiful. Instead of learning a story about someone who doesn’t exist and will let her down…she is learning about someone who is the Truth, who will never let her down, and holds her life in His hands. These are her first experiences grasping just who He is. And it’s beautiful to watch.
Not only does it melt your heart to see your nearly-two year old embracing Jesus and God and the Christmas story, but it has challenged my husband and I. It has always been important to us that Ellie grow up seeing what it means to be a Christian. But with both of us working full time, me in school, the demands of being homeowners…honestly we haven’t been the best example. Sure she sees us working through problems in positive ways, yeah we bring her to church, yes mom goes to women’s group, we live our examples at work and the list goes on. It is easy to justify the fact that we really don’t take much time to sit down and read God’s word. But the fact remains. This is an area in our relationship with Him that needs a bit of help.
And this adventure with advent was apparently just what we needed. I wondered aloud the other day what we were going to do when Christmas was over and we had not Jesus story to read; perhaps we should look into getting another devotional to do with Ellie. And when Klayton told me that he had been thinking just that it was quite obvious that this was what God had been planning. So trusty Amazon yielded some great results; I found a book of five-minute devotionals and a one year book of devotions. Although if you think about it too much it seems a little sad that our toddler gave us the kick we needed to get into the habit of diving into God’s word, I suppose it could be worse.
I hope that continuing to explore who God is with Ellie helps us to gain a new perspective of Him. Afterall, being a child is a theme throughout the New Testament: “Assuredly I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4). While these verses probably have some deep spiritual meaning, for me they are confirmation that we all could stand to be a little more like Ellie. So embrace that desire, embrace that excitement and wonder, and bounce up and down with excitement as you open your Bible in your adventures of knowing Him more. And Ellie, I pray that you never lose your excitement for “Baby Jesus”, and that your heart continues to be open to knowing and loving Him…through all of your life.