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Written by Nathanael Vissia
Posted 12.07.2013

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I have been writing lesson plans again (look for the new lessons to appear on the site in early summer of 2014) and as we move into Advent, I am reminded of why, as a Christian Educator, Christmas is my least favorite time of the year.  But it need not stay that way.

1. The War on Christmas

What utter and foolish nonsense this complaint about the war on Christmas has become.  As Christians, is it really true that we are victimized because barristas and store clerks say “Happy Holidays” to us? Is our faith so weak that a language shift in secular culture threatens to transform us into atheists before our very eyes? Is the holiday spirit (whatever THAT means) diminished because it is less acceptable to say “Merry Christmas” to strangers?


This is a non-issue that has nothing to do with our faith; the strength of our faith is not threatened nor diminished by the words of commerce.

Furthermore, when we place our focus on what others are doing outside of our faith communities, then we are more likely to miss the ways we weaken our faith within our faith community.

For instance…

2. The Idolatry of Santa Claus

Santa Claus is not real, so stop pretending that he exists.  Stop asking kids what Santa brought them. Stop writing “Santa” on presents (if you do gift exchanges with children/youth of your church).  And for the love of God, stop having volunteers dress up as Santa at church Christmas parties.

As a  member of a church, teaching our kids about a person that is not real undermines our teaching integrity, especially when the subjects of our lessons are invisible or exist (mostly) in the distant past.

We must avoid the teaching path that leads to the following thought in our children, “Dear Church Member, if you lied to me about Santa Claus, what else did you lie to me about?”

To make matters worse, the understanding of Santa often merges (in the mind of the general public) with a basic perception of God, creating the perfect storm of bad theology: God is an older man with a beard who spies on us from afar to determine who to reward and who to punish. As the Body of Christ, why would we want to contribute to this distortion of God?

Instead, let’s clarify the situation. And, one of the best places where we can do that as a faith community is in our classrooms. But there’s a problem there, too, during Christmas time.  

3.  December Sunday School Lessons

In the churches I’ve worked with, Sunday school attendance is the highest in December. Unfortunately, some of those increased numbers represent students who ONLY attend during this time of the year.  Despite this opportunity to share more of the good news to more of our children, we instead tell them the same story every year:  A baby was born with some odd circumstances surrounding his birth.  The End.  

Do not get me wrong, I am not diminishing the risks Mary had to go through or the counter-cultural decision Joseph makes regarding his marriage to Mary (due to his obedience to God) or the planning and care that we see with God sending John the Baptist as a co-worker of Jesus or even the insights that come from the blessings of Simeon and Anna (Luke 2). These are good stories to teach. But should we teach those stories every year to our best-attended Sunday school classes?

No. We should not.

And here’s why:  Jesus’ birth is important because of the choices, actions and teachings that Jesus made and lived as an adult.

So let’s teach those stories during Christmas (for stories to consider teaching during Christmas time, here is my list of Top 5 Jesus Stories to know and teach). We can still give a nod to Christmas and still do the Advent wreaths and Christmas pageants, etc.  But that’s just context. That’s an introduction. We can easily enough begin the lesson of any Jesus story in Advent with the following introduction: As a church, we remember Jesus’ birth because of the things he did as an adult. In today’s lesson, we’ll be reading and learning one of those stories about the adult Jesus…

Is Christmas the most wonderful time of the year? It could be. But not because of what we say to shopping mall clerks, not because of Santa, and not even because of the shepherds who visited the baby Jesus. Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year because of the life Jesus lived, the life that continues to teach us every day how to experience the Kingdom of God on earth (not just after life) and how we can share the fruits of God’s Kingdom with those around us – just like Jesus did. So this Christmas season, let us share and live out the Good News that Jesus has taught us.

3 Distressing Things About Christmas

But It Need Not Stay That Way