I have always enjoyed being in the Sunday school classroom during the Christmas season. It is a delight to watch the children joyfully sing familiar carols, make special nativity crafts, and listen with excited anticipation to the Christmas story—a story they know so well but still long to hear again and again. However, I wonder if we sometimes paint a “G” rated—as in glib or glossy—picture of Christmas that doesn’t appropriately reflect the reality of the event from the perspective of those who lived it and the ultimate purpose of the little baby in the manger.
Consider these words from Nathan W. Bingham, posted at Ligonier Ministries:
The Scriptures systematically strip away the veneer that covers the real truth of the Christmas story. Jesus did not come to add to our comforts. He did not come to help those who were already helping themselves or to fill life with more pleasant experiences. He came on a deliverance mission, to save sinners, and to do so He had to destroy the works of the Devil (Matt. 1:21; 1 John 3:8b).
- Those whose lives were bound up with the events of the first Christmas did not find His coming an easy and pleasurable experience.
- Mary and Joseph’s lives were turned upside down.
The shepherds’ night was frighteningly interrupted, and their futures potentially radically changed.
- The magi faced all kinds of inconvenience and family separation.
- Our Lord Himself, conceived before wedlock, born probably in a cave, would spend His early days as a refugee from the bloodthirsty and vindictive Herod (Matt. 2:13-21).
There is, therefore, an element in the Gospel narratives that stresses that the coming of Jesus is a disturbing event of the deepest proportions. It had to be thus, for He did not come merely to add something extra to life, but to deal with our spiritual insolvency and the debt of our sin. He was not conceived in the womb of Mary for those who have done their best, but for those who know that their best is “like filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6)—far from good enough—and that in their flesh there dwells no good thing (Rom. 7:18). He was not sent to be the source of good experiences, but to suffer the pangs of hell in order to be our Savior.
(From “Do You Believe in a Santa Christ?” at www.ligonier.org)
This does not mean that we need to include all of the above points as we communicate the Christmas narrative to children—especially younger children. But, as teachers, having this larger perspective and scope of the story in our hearts and minds can serve to add a dimension of spiritual depth as we ponder the true meaning of Matthew 1:21:
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”—Matthew 1:21 ESV
(Photo courtesy of digidreamgrafix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)