Christmas is for Children

You may look askance at the title of this article and already be prepared to refute the claim it makes as smacking of the “worldly” man‘s interpretation of Christmas. For that is a popular conception—Christmas is for children! The bright lights and neatly trimmed trees, the anticipation of fun parties and the hard-to-wait-for gift exchange. the sound of Christmas music in the air, and even the appearance of old Saint Nick—it all seems to support the claim that Christmas is for children.

It is not my intent to refute the statement that Christmas is for children; fact is, I want to capitalize on it, contending that the statement is true when viewed from one particular aspect. While on the one hand, the secular world may only consider Christmas profitable in the measure in which it succeeds in convincing us that Christmas is for children; on the other hand, it is more true that only in the measure in which we understand that Christmas is for children, will our celebration be meaningful and profitable. And lest you think we are going in circles right now, let me explain what I mean.

Christmas is undoubtedly one of the most commercialized of all the special days on the Christian calendar; so much so, in fact, that you really have to “work” at sifting its real meaning out of all its entrapments. The economics of the Christmas season have become so important that many business places depend on the profits of this season of the year to “pull them through.” And what would be left of our Christmas celebration if we could strip all of this away? Would we still know what Christmas is for?

For that reason I want to contend that Christmas is for children. When we strip away all of that which is traditionally attached to the celebration, we still discover that Christmas is for children—the children of God! The child of God is really the only one who can meaningfully celebrate Christmas, no matter what his physical age may be. That’s what I mean by saying “Christmas is for children”; it’s for those who confess to be children of God!

On numerous occasions the Bible refers to us as “children,” and in fact. urges us to be “children.” Why? Because the characteristics of physical childhood must also characterize liS as spiritual children of our heavenly Father. It was the Lord Jesus who said: “Except ye turn and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3).

For whom then will this Christmas be meaningful and real? For all of those whose lives are characterized by the things that characterize a little child. And you could no doubt add more than are here suggested.

Children are dependent.

They possess nothing but they need everything. They earn nothing but receive everything as a gift. A child’s dependence upon his parents is so obvious that it needs little further examination. It‘s a foregone conclusion that unless a child is cared for, that child will die. And that is a most basic truth for the Christian too, is it not?

Our Christmas will mean nothing at all unless and until we have learned what we really are and why it was necessary for God‘s Son to take on our flesh. The attitude of the Laodiceans is typical of the man of the world: “I am rich, and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing” (Rev. 3:17). But the attitude which we need to be childlike is to know that we are “wretched . . . miserable and poor and blind and naked.” No one really celebrates Christmas profitably who has not experienced the need which the Christ of Christmas fills. The “I am the captain of my soul. I am the Master of my fate” philosophy, so popular today, destroys that dependent spirit so necessary for a childlike attitude. And it robs Christmas of its true meaning.

Children arc also teachable.

They come into the world with a mind ready to be developed and filled with knowledge. But that mind is like modeling clay; it can be molded. It is impressionable. amenable to training, receptive. Without entering into the longstanding debate as to whether heredity or environment is the stronger force in a child‘s life, we must surely agree that environment plays a very significant role. While holding firmly to the covenantal promises of God to us, and His unflinching faithfulness to those promises, we can most frequently paint to the instrument of a godly father and Ior mother whom the Lord used to make us what we arc today. And that’s because God made children teachable. impressionable. able to be molded.

And that too says something about what we must be spiritually. We must be. and always continue to be, teachable. The Christmas story is not new to us, and yet there is a sense in which it is always new. We grew up with Luke chapter two. perhaps it being one of the most well-known passagcs of the Bible to us during our childhood days. But who of us. if our attitude is still one characterized by teachability. will dare say that God cannot teach us some new thing about Himself, about ourself, and about our ever-growing relationship with Him and commitment to Him?

We must guard against the possibility of becoming hard, of being no longer teachable, even though the revelation of the God of our salvation is very familiar. Christmas is for children, children who are teachable, children who are pliable and willing to learn. The man who is “rich” and has “need of nothing” will celebrate Christmas in vain.

Children are also trusting.

In their childhood “innocence” children take you at your word, they believe what you tell them, and they do not doubt that you will provide for their needs. How many a child hasn’t thrust himself into the open arms of father or mother, trusting completely that he would be safely caught?

And that too says much about what we must be spiritually, also as we celebrate Christmas. Many an adult, through the passing of the years, has lost that childlike trust or faith in God and in man. Doubt is the daily diet of many people, and cynicism describes their character. Does God love me? Did He really send His Son in the flesh? Is Christ really the God-man whom we profess? Is Christmas more than a fanciful story retold every twelve months in order to remind men of peace and goodwill?

Only the childlike, trusting soul can grasp the mir· acle of Christmas and know that it is true. To believe in God’s great love, to see it manifested in the Christ of Christmas, to affirm its reality in the life-experience of forgiveness, and to enjoy the blessings of life eternal already in this life—that is to display the childlike attitude so necessary in the celebration of Christmas.

If this old world has been so much with us that we fear we may not have these childlike attitudes, and we thus inquire: “How can I find my way back to childhood again?,” there is but one answer. We find it coming from the lips of the King whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.

Our Lord was in Jerusalem, and a man came to Him with an earnest question similar to the one asked above. He was a man of culture and refinement and influence, a man characterized by honesty and a lack of hypocrisy. And to the inquiring heart of this man, Jesus made one of the most profound and wonderful statements of His ministry: “Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” That was an invitation for him to become a child, a child of God by the miracle of spiritual rebirth.

Oh, would to God that the multitudes who celebrate Christmas meaninglessly this year would hear the call of the Father to become “children” by a new birth. And for us who confess the Christ of Christmas as our Savior, would to God that we might find within ourselves renewed and ever-increasing evidences of “childlikeness.” For indeed, Christmas is for children!

Harlan G. Vanden Einde is pastor of the Oakdale Park Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan.