Thursday, December 19, 2013

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

I have had a couple conversations with my Mommy friends about the traditions and commercialization of Christmas. I heard this radio show series a couple weeks back and found it to be very insightful. I have been listening to the series while I bake Christmas cookies or make Christmas crafts at nap time.

There are four parts to the series. I hope you all find it insightful as well.

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas Radio Broadcast Series 
By: Pastor Joe Shimmel @ Good Fight Radio

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas [Part 1]

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas [Part2]

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas [Part3]

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas [Part4]

Monday, December 2, 2013

Advent Scripture Chain

After some discussion with my husband, Daddy Frankenstein, we decided to make our own Advent Scripture Chain. In true chain style we wanted the scriptures to connect to one another to tell the story of Jesus' birth. We thought this would make a little more sense when teaching our son the foundation of the season. We used the Good News Bible for our scriptures which we felt was a good combination of The Message's story like style and the purity of the New Revised Standard Version.

Daddy Frankenstein was the master engineer in putting all of these scriptures, so he gets a big shout out and thank you for being such a good faith leader for our family!

I used the Avery Name Badge Insert, 6 per sheet, 5392 to print the scriptures. I didn't actually buy the name badge paper I just used the template for the format.


December 1 
John 1: 1-5
In the beginning the Word already existed; the Word was with God, and the Word was God. From the very beginning the Word was with God. Through him God made all things; not one thing in all creation was made without him. The Word was the source of life,[a] and this life brought light to people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out. 


December 2
Isaiah 40: 3-5
A voice cries out,
“Prepare in the wilderness a road for the Lord!
    Clear the way in the desert for our God!
Fill every valley;

    level every mountain.
The hills will become a plain,
    and the rough country will be made smooth.
Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,

    and all people will see it.
The Lord himself has promised this.”


December 3
Jeremiah 31: 10-13
(10)  The LORD says, "Nations, listen to me and proclaim my words on the far-off shores. I scattered my people, but I will gather them and guard them as a shepherd guards his flock.  (11)  I have set Israel's people free and have saved them from a mighty nation.  (12)  They will come and sing for joy on Mount Zion and be delighted with my gifts--- gifts of grain and wine and olive oil, gifts of sheep and cattle. They will be like a well-watered garden; they will have everything they need.  (13)  Then the young women will dance and be happy, and men, young and old, will rejoice. I will comfort them and turn their mourning into joy, their sorrow into gladness. 


December 4
Isaiah 9: 6-7
A child is born to us!
    A son is given to us!
    And he will be our ruler.
He will be called, “Wonderful[b] Counselor,”
    “Mighty God,” “Eternal Father,”
    “Prince of Peace.”
His royal power will continue to grow;
    his kingdom will always be at peace.
He will rule as King David's successor,
    basing his power on right and justice,
    from now until the end of time.
The Lord Almighty is determined to do all this.


December 5
Micah 5: 2
The Lord says, “Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are one of the smallest towns in Judah, but out of you I will bring a ruler for Israel, whose family line goes back to ancient times.”


December 6


Luke 1: 8-13
One day Zechariah was doing his work as a priest in the Temple, taking his turn in the daily service.  11 An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar where the incense was burned. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was alarmed and felt afraid. 13 But the angel said to him, “Don't be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son. You are to name him John. 



December 7

John 1: 6-9
God sent his messenger, a man named John, who came to tell people about the light, so that all should hear the message and believe. He himself was not the light; he came to tell about the light. This was the real light—the light that comes into the world and shines on all people.


December 8
Luke 1:26-38
In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy God sent the angel Gabriel to a town in Galilee named Nazareth.  (27)  He had a message for a young woman promised in marriage to a man named Joseph, who was a descendant of King David. Her name was Mary.  (28)  The angel came to her and said, "Peace be with you! The Lord is with you and has greatly blessed you!"  



December 9
Luke 1: 34-37
34 Mary said to the angel, “I am a virgin. How, then, can this be?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and God's power will rest upon you. For this reason the holy child will be called the Son of God. 36 Remember your relative Elizabeth. It is said that she cannot have children, but she herself is now six months pregnant, even though she is very old. 37 For there is nothing that God cannot do.”


December 10 
Matthew 1: 18-21


18 His mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they were married, she found out that she was going to have a baby by the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph was a man who always did what was right, but he did not want to disgrace Mary publicly; so he made plans to break the engagement privately. 20 While he was thinking about this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife. For it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived. 21 She will have a son, and you will name him Jesus—because he will save his people from their sins.”


December 11
Luke 2: 1-4
At that time Emperor Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Roman Empire. When this first census took place, Quirinius was the governor of Syria. Everyone, then, went to register himself, each to his own hometown.
Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to the town of Bethlehem in Judea, the birthplace of King David. Joseph went there because he was a descendant of David.



December 12
Luke 2: 5-7
He went to register with Mary, who was promised in marriage to him. She was pregnant, and while they were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to have her baby. She gave birth to her first son, wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger—there was no room for them to stay in the inn.


December 13
Luke 2: 8-12
There were some shepherds in that part of the country who were spending the night in the fields, taking care of their flocks. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone over them. They were terribly afraid,10 but the angel said to them, “Don't be afraid! I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all the people. 11 This very day in David's town your Savior was born—Christ the Lord! 12 And this is what will prove it to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”


December 14
Luke 2: 13-15
13 Suddenly a great army of heaven's angels appeared with the angel, singing praises to God:
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom he is pleased!”
15 When the angels went away from them back into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us.”


December 15
Luke 2: 16-20
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and saw the baby lying in the manger. 17 When the shepherds saw him, they told them what the angel had said about the child. 18 All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said. 19 Mary remembered all these things and thought deeply about them. 20 The shepherds went back, singing praises to God for all they had heard and seen; it had been just as the angel had told them.


December 16
Luke 2: 21
21 A week later, when the time came for the baby to be circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name which the angel had given him before he had been conceived.


December 17
Matthew 2:1-2
Soon afterward, some men who studied the stars came from the East to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the baby born to be the king of the Jews? We saw his star when it came up in the east, and we have come to worship him.”


December 18 
Matthew 2: 3-5


When King Herod heard about this, he was very upset, and so was everyone else in Jerusalem. He called together all the chief priests and the teachers of the Law and asked them, “Where will the Messiah be born?”
“In the town of Bethlehem in Judea,” they answered. 


December 19
Matthew 2:7-11
So Herod called the visitors from the East to a secret meeting and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem with these instructions: “Go and make a careful search for the child; and when you find him, let me know, so that I too may go and worship him.”
9-10 And so they left, and on their way they saw the same star they had seen in the East. When they saw it, how happy they were, what joy was theirs! It went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.11 


December 20
Matthew 2: 15-16
They went into the house, and when they saw the child with his mother Mary, they knelt down and worshiped him. They brought out their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and presented them to him.
16 When Herod realized that the visitors from the East had tricked him, he was furious. He gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its neighborhood who were two years old and younger—this was done in accordance with what he had learned from the visitors about the time when the star had appeared.


December 21
Matthew 2: 13-15
13 After they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, “Herod will be looking for the child in order to kill him. So get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you to leave.”
14 Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and left during the night for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until Herod died. This was done to make come true what the Lord had said through the prophet, “I called my Son out of Egypt.”


December 22
Matthew 2: 19-21
19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go back to the land of Israel, because those who tried to kill the child are dead.” 21 So Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went back to Israel.


December 23
John 3: 16-18
 16 For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its savior.
18 Those who believe in the Son are not judged; but those who do not believe have already been judged, because they have not believed in God's only Son.


December 24 
Titus 2: 11-14


11 For God has revealed his grace for the salvation of all people. 12 That grace instructs us to give up ungodly living and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this world, 13 as we wait for the blessed Day we hope for, when the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ[a] will appear. 14 He gave himself for us, to rescue us from all wickedness and to make us a pure people who belong to him alone and are eager to do good.


December 25 
1 John 4: 9
And God showed his love for us by sending his only Son into the world, so that we might have life through him.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Santa Problem: Santa Claus vs. St. Nicholas

Many Christian parents struggle with the idea of Santa Claus at Christmas. How can we reconcile this magical and fictional person and his flying reindeer when we are trying to teach our children to love and follow Christ. This is actually a conversation that I have had with many parents and even teenagers over the years. When I was a youth and families lay minister in college I would actually have Bible studies on this very topic. Here are some of the main questions and concerns I have heard over the years and my responses to them.


Won't our children be upset that we lied to them about Santa? Will I lose integrity with my children when they realize I lied to them?

Every child is different. Some children will not be bothered by learning that Santa is not who they thought he was. Some children will be very hurt to learn that someone they looked up to and believed in is not who they thought they were. They won't be able to be unset with Santa, after all Santa is not the one who lied to them, they will be up set with you. I think this is why it is very important how you teach Santa to your children. The modern day image and story of Santa has become very fictionalized and was rooted in the American capitalist market. If you teach the commercialized and fictionalized idea of Santa then maybe your child will have real reason to doubt your integrity about important concepts and ideas. If the Santa in your house is a man completely unconnected to God, to Jesus, and to the teaching of the church and the Bible; than yes- maybe you and the faith you are teaching will become suspect in your children's eyes. The modern day image of Santa may have some echoes of truth but when closely examined the tenants of who Santa is does not stand up very well.

If you teach that Santa Claus is another name for St. Nicholas a man who loved God, believed in Jesus, loved children, and answered God's call to provide joy and gifts to children; then maybe not. I will discuss this in more detail a little latter below.

Maybe it is important to understand where the modern day Santa comes from. There are two main sources which created the image and story we know and see today: Clement Moore's poem "A Visit From St. Nickolas" (which is better known as "T'Was Night Before Christmas") and The Coca-Cola Company.

The image we see of Santa Claus at the Christmas season is largely a construct of a capitalist market. Santa wears a red and white suit because those were and are the companies colors of Coca-Cola Company. This image appeared around 1931. Our modern day image of Santa was created to sell more products for the company. It was an ingenious marketing plan that served them very well. The artist who created the image of Santa for the company was inspired by the poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" description of St. Nicholas. 

The poem "A Visit From St. Nickolas" was written by Clement Clarke Moore in 1822. Today we refer to this poem as "T'was the Night Before Christmas" and we often consider it to be a children's book. Moore was a professor of Oriental and Greek literature at Columbia University. There are some arguments that Moore may not have intended for his poem to become the inspiration for image of the modern day Santa Claus. There are also arguments that he did not actually author the poem. In the following video from the History Channel they give some references to the places Moore may have gotten some of his ideas about St. Nicholas for the poem. However, Moore echos the ideas of the real man St. Nicholas and not of a completely fictional character.

Here is a great video by the History Channel which explains the two main sources our modern day image of Santa comes from: http://www.history.com/videos/evolution-of-santa-claus

My opinion is that you can't actually escape the popular image of Santa Claus. If you don't talk about Santa at all then the only idea of Santa your child will have is what the secular world teaches them. If you preemptively approach Santa as being Saint Nicholas you get the first say on who Santa is and what his role in Christmas will be. You get to lay the foundation rather than the outside world. St. Nicholas was a real person who is recognized by the church and there is much historical information about him available. You are not lying to your kids if you teach Santa as St. Nicholas.
    
I am not Catholic how can I teach my children about Saints? 

First it is important to understand who is a saint and how do they achieve sainthood. The Roman Catholic Church views saints to be very holy men or women who believed in Jesus Christ, followed the Gospel and demonstrated extraordinary faith. Saints were regular men and women who were called by God to fulfill a purpose or calling and did in fact fulfill God's requests. There is a long and detailed process in which a saint goes through to become a saint. In the Roman Catholic denomination believers are encourage to pray to patron saints for intercessions. I personally do not pray to saints for intercession but I do think that saints are excellent examples of what it means to be a Christian. They were real people, ordinary people, who did amazing things in order to glorify and honor God. In a world where it is hard to find examples of believers who live the Gospel; saints provide a wonderful opportunity for us to teach that living out your calling from God is possible.


Saint Nicholas was a man who lived in the 4th Century. He was known in his lifetime to be a great gift giver and a man who gave all he had to help the poor and the needy. He is remembered mostly for his gift giving which was traditionally celebrated on his feast day of December 6th. He is known as the patron saint of children, as well as, sailors and bankers. The stories that closely link him to our modern version of Santa Claus were not recorded until after his death.

Since St. Nicholas was known for his gift giving someone could argue that giving gifts at Christmas are simply because of him. However, there are many reasons to associate gift giving with Christmas. When the baby Jesus was born he was brought many gifts and his birth was a gift to humanity. When we give gifts to each other at Christmas we are remembering the scriptures in many different ways and we are fulfilling the calling to give freely to one another. I personally do not know very many Christians who give every penny they have so that others in need will not suffer. St. Nicholas however was such a man and he happens to be everywhere at Christmas time already.

Can teaching the idea of Santa be harmful to my child's belief in Jesus Christ latter on in life?

This is a very valid concern. For me, part of this concern is how you are teaching Santa to your children. If you are teaching the secular idea of Santa than yes this could be damaging . If the secular idea of Santa is the foundation for belief during the Advent season it is based on fiction. If you teach that Santa is another name for St. Nicholas, and that St. Nicholas believed in and loved Jesus Christ, we are basing their belief on Christian ideals which are substantiated by historical and Biblical evidence.

While it is all well and good for me to make these statements maybe you should read what some experts have to say on the subject. I believe these articles support the claim that teaching the secular version of Santa Claus can be damaging to your child in the long run. Most of these articles do not however look at Santa as St. Nicholas or present a believers perspective.
  • Jesus Believes in Santa at Examiner.com- explores the idea that we should teach that Santa believed in Jesus and offers some ideas on how to do this.
  • Is it Okay to Lie About Santa by Laura Lewis Brown at PBS.com
  • Santa Claus: Innocent Fantasy or Harmful Lie at Psychology World- supports the claim that lying can indeed be harmful to some children but offers suggestions on how to keep Santa pretend and not emphasize that he is real.
Here are some children's books of the legend of St. Nicholas:




























Closing Thoughts
If we are believers we are called to pass our faith on to our children. We are called to give them a foundation for belief. This means that we have a responsibility to think about how and what we teach our children. I personally believe that some things we must choose to lay a foundation for before we allow the outside world to influence them. We still watch fun Christmas movies on TV and we still pretend that reindeer can fly. These are some of the fun trappings of Christmas. However, we attempt to lay a foundation on faith during the holiday so that we do not get lost in these fun trappings. We read a scripture a day in our Advent calendar, we light the Advent candles in our Advent wreath every Sunday and we have a family devotion. We strive not to let the outside world sweep us up in stories and myth and rather stay grounded in the truth.

You might also like the following blog articles I have written on keeping Christ in the Christmas Season.