I stopped by Target yesterday for a few things, including the Fisher Price Little People nativity set for our grandchildren. The toy department was daunting, to say the least. After looking up and down the aisles for a few minutes, I spotted an employee wearing the familiar red Target shirt. I told her what I was looking for. She looked quizzically at me. “Fisher Price,” I repeated. She started to lead me down an aisle. “What was it again you were looking for?” she asked. “The Fisher Price nativity set,” I told her. “What is a nativity?” she asked me. “You know, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus,” I explained. I could tell by her face that my explanation meant nothing to her at all. “The Christmas story,” I emphasized. “Is it a Christmas toy?” she asked. We were surrounded literally by a canyon of toys, threatening to bury us alive.
At that point, I saw it, in the middle of an aisle, down on the bottom shelf, by itself.
And I was hit broadside by two things:
1. This clerk had NO idea that Christmas had anything at all to do with Jesus.
2. In the entire store, including a whole section devoted to holiday decorations, this plastic nativity set was the only thing I saw that represented what Christmas is really about.
When our oldest daughter was just a toddler, we had some friends nearby who recognized even then what was happening to Christmas. And so, as soon as you walked in their door, there was a nativity set, front and center, situated so that it could never be overlooked. I have never forgotten that. Make it the first thing you notice.
Christmas can be fun. But it is also a time of great joy and hope in a world that has no idea that joy and hope even exist. Never assume that someone you meet or someone you love knows that Jesus has everything to do with Christmas and everything to do with the cries of the human heart. “He is here!” the angels shouted with glee.
For you with young children, read them the Christmas story over and over, until they can recite every word. Let them play-act the story, over and over, costumes and all, yes, even if they make a huge mess. Invite the neighbor children to join them. Let them play out the story with a nativity set, so that they physically see what happened. Memorize with them the account from Luke 2. You would be amazed how quickly they can do that, verse by verse, even at an early age. It will be engraved in their memory forever. One of our girls memorized it at age five, and twenty years later, she can still recite it.
And above all, make sure that your children KNOW the difference between what is pretend and what is real. The Christmas story is not just another “story.” It is unlike any other made-up tale like Dora and Curious George. Because Jesus is REAL. This is Truth.
For unto us a Child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be upon His shoulder,
and His name will be called
Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9. 6