This past Sunday I taught Sunday School for my daughter's class. I've been working out a new curriculum for our younger children's class (ages 4-7) to try to make things work better for the children and the teachers. Someday I'll share more about that, but for now I wanted to focus on a lesson that I learned. Starting the last Sunday in November we've been talking about Christmas in Sunday School. November 29 was the first Sunday of Advent, so we made advent wreaths and talked about how God told the prophets that Jesus was coming 700 years before He was born. December 6 we talked about how God sent an angel to tell Mary that she would give birth to Jesus. December 13 we talked about how Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem and that Jesus was born in a stable. This Sunday I told the story of the angels telling the shepherds that Jesus had been born, and that the shepherds went to Bethlehem to find Jesus (scroll down for the cotton ball sheep). Through all of these stories and crafts we've been focused on telling the children about Jesus being born, but I wondered if they had connected Jesus' birth with Christmas.
At the end of my story I asked the children if they knew what was happening on Friday.
"Christmas" they all shouted..."Santa will come"..."We get to open presents"...etc. I tried to draw the connection back to Jesus' birth, but their minds were full of Santa and presents and Christmas trees...We continued the lesson, but I struggled with making that connection stronger for them.
I am not one to rule out Santa as part of our holiday traditions...this is how my very strong Christian parents raised us. We had Santa gifts, put out the plate of cookies, and as we got older my brother and I schemed to try to catch Santa in the act, but we also always knew that the far greater reason for Christmas was to celebrate Jesus' birthday. As I reflected on that heritage I remembered some dear friends who used to share their home with us on Christmas Eve. In their family they had a tradition of making a birthday cake for Jesus and sharing it together on Christmas Eve.
Now, my daughter loves birthdays...her own and anyone else's, and there is no more hard and fast way to prove that it's someone's birthday except to make a cake and sing the Happy Birthday song to them. I googled it and there are a lot of ideas of just how to do this. I'll probably try a much simpler version of this one. We'll be trying this out this year to see if we can't refocus our child's mind, if ever so briefly, on the Greatest Gift that we received that first Christmas, rather than the trinkets under the tree. I'll let you know how it goes.