Knowledge about Christ is the best gift you can give your kids this holiday season. Join us as author Marianne Hering shares some great tips on how to help your kids understand the complex scriptural theology around Christmas!
When I was a senior in high school, I took physics. I was one of three girls in a class of twenty-four students. I held my own and kept near the top of the class until the unit on electricity. At that point, mastery of Ohm’s law and the right-hand rule eluded me—I was several watts short of earning an A. Many of the boys, however, beamed with knowledge, but it wasn’t that their testosterone-enhanced brains were smarter. It was because of the Boy Scouts electricity merit badge and model train kits. Quite simply, while I was learning to sew and bake in the Girl Scouts, the boys were learning to build circuit boards. My mom and I bonded over quilting. The boys and their dads bonded over miniature electric engines.
When it comes to understanding complex subjects like electric current, experience is everything, and grasping complex theological concepts is no different. Don’t let your kids show up in a culture unprepared to explain their faith in logical terms. As Christian parents, we’re to teach our children handle the Word of God accurately, soteriology and all (1 Timothy 2:15).
Now, don’t run away just because I used the word “soteriology,” which sounds like something to kill with bleach instead of the study of salvation, the theological heart of the gospel. Christmastime is the perfect season to sow the seeds of theological competence, to give your child experience by explaining the complexity of Jesus and His incarnation. Use the following “Yule Teaching Tools” to help your family grasp the essential and startling beauty Scriptural theology crammed into the manger alongside the swaddling clothes.
1) Talk about miracles with precise language in your home and talk about God’s truth as revealed in the Bible.
A miracle is something supernatural that God does to teach us about His nature. A miracle shifts the universe, and the Bible is chock-full of them. You’re to base your faith on those universe-shifting miracles and teach your children to do the same.A miracle is not finding a front-row parking spot at Macy’s on December 24. A miracle is not chemotherapy killing cancer. A miracle is not a rainbow appearing the day you buried grandpa. A miracle isn’t even Uncle Joe giving up alcohol. Those are all good things to praise God for and to cherish in your heart, but they are not supernatural events that call attention to something specific God wants the entire human race to learn about Himself. So call ordinary and even extraordinary good things a “blessing”; but save the talk about miracles to biblical events. Jesus’ birth shifted the universe, and that account should be elevated above all other stories.
2) Pave the way for Easter, for understanding about our need for the “perfect sacrifice” by emphasizing Jesus’ spiritual purity and our propensity to sin.
It’s easy to point to “sinful people” as those who murder, plant bombs, or hurt children. Help your child understand that everyone, including moms, dads, teachers, and friends, are marked by sin because their spiritual template is Adam, the fallen man. That whole “Adam’s offspring” piece is one of the more complex concepts, but if a child is used to hearing about it at Christmas and Easter, that essential theological building block for understanding atonement (Romans 5:12-21) will be easier to put in place later.
3) Talk about the Trinity during Christmas and don’t apologize for it.
If you do, you give your kids a reason to shy away from appreciating the mystery of God, a power so great that words can’t describe Him fully. Children are especially well-suited and primed to embrace the Holy Three-in-One concept because they appreciate wonder. Once it’s established that Jesus is the Son of God and also God and the Holy Spirit was an essential partner in His birth, you’re then dealing with the Trinity. If you feel over your head, treat that theological construct the same way you would another concept you don’t fully understand. Can you explain a combustion engine? I can’t, but I don’t get embarrassed when I tell my kids that I’m taking the car to a mechanic to get it fixed. If your kids ask a question that you can’t answer, say, “I don’t know. Let’s look it up.” Present the Trinity with confidence, and your children will accept it just as confidently.
So this Christmas, slip some candy canes into your kids’ stockings and a little theology into their noggins. My parents didn’t prepare me for the physics unit on electricity, and I was behind my peers. Looking back, it wasn’t a big deal and part of the 1980s culture. I know that they had their top priorities right. They made sure I understood about the “Light of the world” –knowledge I wouldn’t be able to learn in any physics class.
Marianne has written for children since 1987 when she joined the editorial staff of Focus on the Family Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. magazines. In the 1990s she wrote six children’s mystery books and more than 40 Bible phonic readers (with co-author Margaret Wilber) for Cook Communications. Now a general book editor for Focus on the Family, she has turned her passion for children’s fiction into developing a series for beginning readers who love adventure. She is the editor of The 21 Toughest Questions Your Kids Will Ask about Christianity.