Christmas In July Is No Christmas At All

When we put up our Christmas tree recently, we made a wonderful afternoon out of it. We lit the fireplace (regardless of the fact it was 80 degrees outside), hung the stockings, decorated the tree, listened to Christmas music, turned on the outdoor decorations, and topped it all off with freshly baked pumpkin bread.
 
That night, I asked Nathan and Kenna, “What was your favorite part of today?”
 
They BOTH said, “Hanging candy canes on the tree!”
 
Of all the fun things that day, they both picked hanging candy canes on the tree?
 
It actually makes perfect sense in retrospect – that was the only part of the day they got to fully experience first-hand. Everything else was shown to them or happened around them. They were dazzled by the candy canes because they got to hold them (unlike all the other breakable ornaments), select a place and put them on the tree with their own hands, and experience participating in the day rather than observing the day.
 
I can relate to that as an adult too. There used to be a year-round Christmas store in town. Every time we drove by it in the summer I wondered who on earth would want to go look at Christmas ornaments when it’s not Christmas! If I were to stand in a store filled with Christmas decorations in July, I would not feel any of the joy and anticipation that I do in December; I can’t experience “Christmas” by simply putting Christmas decorations around me.
 
Perhaps the reason why at least two-thirds of kids who grow up in a Christian family stop going to church is that they never experienced God. Perhaps church happened around them. Perhaps prayer happened around them. Perhaps people read the Bible around them. But just as we can’t put up Christmas decorations in July and expect someone to “feel” Christmas, we can’t “put up” faith around our kids and expect they will “feel” God. We have to create homes where our kids actually experience God . . . not just learn about God.
 
I’ve been thinking about this a lot this week and have been trying to identify what constitutes experience. If I were to break down the components of faith development, it might look something like this:
 

  • Kids learn from what we teach them at home and what is taught at church.
  • They watch how those truths impact the lives around them.
  • They develop faith from applying what they learn and see to their own lives.

 
Even though all three areas certainly contribute to experience, it’s the third area of personal application that makes the key difference between faith happening around kids and faith happening in kids. Just like the candy canes, our kids need to hold faith in their hands – by praying themselves, reading the Bible themselves, serving themselves. The ways we find to facilitate these personal experiences can make all the difference in whether our kids develop an authentic faith or no faith at all.

 

Today’s Thought:

It’s almost time for New Year’s resolutions. What is one thing you could do better next year in terms of facilitating your kids’ application of faith? (On a personal note, I’m going to introduce prayer lists to the kids so they can experience more directly the power of praying consistently for certain requests and being aware of answered prayers. It’s also an excellent opportunity to use unanswered prayers as a conversation starter about what prayer is and isn’t.)
 

Today’s Action:

Whatever your answer was to the question above, do just one thing toward that today. Chances are, what you thought of isn’t something you find easy to do, otherwise you would have done it already! Remove some of the intimidation by taking a small first step today.
 

4 Comments

  1. sally jo on December 11, 2011 at 8:38 AM

    this has to be GODs timeing, our family has been struggeling trying find peace in regards to this very issue. being a mission minded person, its so important to me that our kids get out and serve others, not just sit in a youth room, and listen to music, play games and get lectures every week. I am so distressed by the lack of leadership into the mission field by our church that I am angry. Ive tried so many different times to be the change i want to see. but i feel its important for my kids to see others besides their parents following the example JESUS set. My husband is more of an easy going person, and not at all mission minded, which is where our problems come in. I asked my 17 yr old daughter this morning, if she would like to visit other churches and her response was, “i dont care” You really spoke to me this morning, i have been so sad knowing that i have let them down, by allowing them to become so complacent, to be content just sitting in a pew, that i missed my ques. When GOD was unsetteling me, I should have looked around at my kids to see what was going on in their life, instead of banging my head against the wall of leadership that has no desire to change. Thank you for posting this, i feel like i can now release myself from this situation and go where my family can experience what it feels like to be the hands and feet of JESUS.



    • Natasha @ Christian Mom Thoughts on December 23, 2011 at 1:40 PM

      Sally Jo, Thank you so much for your comment. It means so much to me to read that this post helped you in your journey with your family, and I really appreciate you taking the time to let me know. I don’t have teenagers (yet!) but I can imagine how difficult it is when kids get to that point. Just keep praying for and with them…and welcome the unsettling that God is doing as an opportunity to grow in your family.



  2. Jennifer on December 12, 2011 at 5:22 PM

    So true, kids have to experience God before they can really believe it! But I think one of the key things in that is maturity. A parent can be the most interactive, faith-filled person and faciliate experiences for their children which are intended to lead them to Christ, but sometimes it comes down to whether or not the child is capable (developmentally) of experiencing God, which is what I am saying is maturity. I think this is why you find so many people who are raised in Christian homes awaken unto their walk with Him in Jr. High or High School or college, when they are capable of really grasping what He has done for us.

    I won’t go all theological on you either, but I believe that God also has a huge role in tugging on individuals hearts in His own timing, and without that tug, a person cannot/will not/does not want to experience God’s presence. 🙂

    What I’m working on right now with my kiddos is teaching them the foundations of our faith. I’m going beyond the stories to the tenets of our faith. And we all really enjoy that time together. Next year, I plan to do the same until we have the reformed catechism memorized and understood. After that, I’m looking at going through the Bible chronologically together.



  3. Natasha @ Christian Mom Thoughts on December 23, 2011 at 1:46 PM

    Jenn, I thought about this theological point also when writing this! It is one of the most difficult things, to think that no matter what we do, ultimately it is God who calls people to Him (well, depending on where you are on the Calvinist/Arminian spectrum :). While considering all the things I can do to better be an intentional Christian mom, I try to think of it in terms of increasing the eventual quality of the kids’ spiritual lives. I know I can’t determine if they become a Christian, but if they do, I want them to have grown up in a home where they experienced daily Christian living rather than just church on Sundays. Your point is very important so we never get caught up in thinking we can control their spiritual outcome! Thanks!