DEAR DR. GRAHAM: Every year, we say we’re going to try to keep our children’s attention focused on the real meaning of Christmas, but then all our good intentions go out the window once the holiday approaches. Is it hopeless to keep trying? — Mrs. E. McN.
DEAR MRS. E. MCN.: No, it’s not hopeless — and even if it seems difficult, I believe it’s important to keep trying. After all, if your children don’t learn the true meaning of Christmas at home, where will they learn it in today’s world? They probably won’t.
At the same time, be sure you take into account their ages and attention spans. Children don’t necessarily respond to long Bible readings or extended prayers; they may even rebel against them if we aren’t careful. Instead, you may want to take a few minutes each day to focus on one truth about Jesus and one fact about His birth. Simply but clearly teach your children who Jesus was and why He came into the world. Underline, too, that Jesus came because God loves us and wants us to be part of His family forever — and we will be, as we ask Jesus to come into our hearts.
Remember that the greatest “teacher” your children will ever have isn’t only our words, but our lives. Do we tell them Jesus is important to us, but then act as if He isn’t? Do we become so preoccupied with shopping and other activities this time of year that they conclude this must be all there is to Christmas?
Christmastime gives parents a great opportunity to help their children discover who Jesus is and what He wants to do for them.
Remember the Bible’s promise: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
Accept God’s s gift of salvation
DEAR DR. GRAHAM: Yesterday, my 9-year-old son asked me why we celebrate Christmas, and I didn’t know what to tell him, except that it marked Jesus’ birthday. What more could I have said? — Mrs. M.M.L.
DEAR MRS. M.M.L.: I’m thankful your son is curious about Christmas, and I hope you’ll do all you can to keep his curiosity alive. One way you can do this is by praying for him, asking God to give him a desire to know Jesus and give his life to Him.
Yes, at Christmas we celebrate the birthday of Jesus over 2,000 years ago. But who was Jesus? The Bible tells us Jesus was the Son of God, who came down from heaven to give us the greatest gift any person can ever receive — the gift of eternal life. By nature we are separated from God because of our sins, but Jesus came to take away our sins and make us part of God’s family forever. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
This Christmas, your son will probably receive many gifts from you. You will have done everything possible to give them to him — choosing them, paying for them, wrapping them and offering them to him. But they won’t really be his until he actually takes them and makes them his own.
The same is true with Jesus Christ. God has done everything possible to give us the gift of salvation, but we must accept it by reaching out and inviting Him to come into our lives.
If you have never done so, accept God’s Christmas gift to you by turning to Jesus and asking Him to come into your life. And encourage your son to do so, as well.
DEAR DR. GRAHAM: Every year, Christmas just makes me feel guilty, because in spite of my best intentions I always end up spending too much money on gifts for people — often for things they don’t even need.
It’s too late to do anything about it now, but why do I do this? — Mrs. V.L.
DEAR MRS. V.L.: You’re not alone; I suspect many readers feel the same way. And when credit card bills come due in a few weeks they’ll feel it even more!
Only you can say why you overspend each year, particularly when you know your gifts may not be wanted or needed. Sometimes, however, we give expensive gifts because we’re trying to impress people, or because we hope to win their friendship. We may even give to someone because down inside we know we’ve ignored them the rest of the year, and we hope our gift will make up for it.
But none of these are valid reasons for giving; in fact, they may lead to resentment or cynicism. Instead, a gift should be a genuine expression of our respect or friendship for someone. On that first Christmas, the humble shepherds brought nothing to Jesus except their praise and their worship, but that was enough (see Luke 2:15-20).
Nor should you give something that you know will be useless. Instead, ask God to help you make a gift that they’ll not only appreciate, but will help others. For example, you might give a gift in someone’s name to an organization that helps people who are facing disaster or poverty (such as Samaritan’s Purse, which my son Franklin heads). Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
Send your queries to “My Answer,” c/o Billy Graham, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, N.C., 28201; call 1-877-2-GRAHAM, or go to www.billygraham.org.