Monday, December 26, 2011

Where's Waldo & Baby Jesus

In the flurry of shopping, lights, parties, family gatherings, and two full days of celebration focusing on Jesus as "The Reason for the Season" can be a challenge.  Like a game of Where's Waldo we stare at the competing storylines, the consumer attitudes, the secular trappings and traditions wondering where the Manger Scene fits in.  Interestingly, this year I took a dogmatic step backwards and didn't let such things bother me as much because we did some very intentional focusing on Christ with the kids.  But my wife took a step my direction and surprised me with a desire that this be the last Christmas where Santa is on stage at all.  She thinks the twins are ready to celebrate next year without him and really wants Joshua to experience a much less emphasized version as well.

I cannot speak to how or why my wife came to her new-found position but I can tell you why I loosened up a bit.  Perhaps the two of us will ultimately find that healthy balance as we each continue moving toward the middle.  Here's is what I think we did right:

Journey to Bethlehem:  A local church in Grapevine Texas puts on an amazing experience with live actors and animals taking tours of 50 at a time through a mile of trails, stopping at designated areas to act out a different part of the Christmas story.  We, the tour group, were part of a Jewish caravan travelling to Bethlehem to register for Caesars census.  Along the way we meet the Wise Men, Roman Soldiers, Beggars, Markets Workers, Shepherds, and an Angel announcing the Messiah's birth.  We arrive in Bethlehem to find all the Inns are full and are told that some folks are staying in the stables out back.  As we turn the corner to see if there is also room for us, we find Mary and Joseph with Baby Jesus.  It was an experience that my family really enjoyed and plans on making a regular tradition.

Chronicles of Narnia:  In the week leading up to Christmas my family watched all three movies.  Despite the Hollywood touches and the "alternative" plot lines, the message of Jesus was there.  Never has there been a production in which I've had so many GOOD theological questions from my children. We got to talk about Aslan and how he was like Jesus.  We got to talk about how Jesus laid down his life as a payment for our salvation just like the Lion did for Edmond.  We got to talk about the resurrection.  They got to see a three dimensional representation of Christ's amazing tenderness coupled with immense roaring power.  Something clicked with both of them and it was fun to witness.

Church Services: This tradition can frustrate children as they patiently wait for candles to extinguish and songs to cease so that we can return home and open some presents.  I am no exception as I remember feeling the same way in my youth.  But the point is made and the attitudes about it will change.  They know...that above and beyond their desires to open gifts...we will stop everything and go worship.  We will give thanks in song.  We will read Scripture.  We will make this about Jesus!  They don't have to love this part just yet.  The important thing is that they see two parents united in desire to make Christ number one.

I'd like to challenge each of you to make this game of Where's Waldo a bit easier for your family.  Perhaps drop some of the secular traditions and start new ones that better reflect a birthday for a Messiah & King.  If we all do enough of this, the picture won't be so muddled, the characters will be more distinct, and finding the Baby wrapped in swaddling clothes will be much easier to spot.

Please share your thoughts and some of what your family does to emphasize & celebrate Jesus...