Most holidays suffer from insufferable commercialism and superficiality in these dark times. Occasionally Christians respond by retreating from the holiday as a whole. I wonder if this is really the best course of action, however, especially when young children are present; I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to redeem the holidays instead.
While not addressing the issue directly, Scripture does hint at the latter response. After all, Jesus encountered the same crass commercialism in his day. During the Passover—what should have been a time of joyful celebration of God’s continuing faithfulness—he enters the Temple precincts and drives out those who were all too clearly worshiping Mammon instead (Mark 11:15-17). The connections to our contemporary celebration of Christmas seem too obvious to draw. But notice that he does not then abstain from commemorating Passover, but instead invests it with new, rich meaning when he celebrates the Last Supper with his disciples. Can we do the same?
If our purpose as parents is to teach our children as much about God as we can in the short time we have with them, can we afford to spurn such wonderful opportunities to do that—all in the name of pious asceticism? Paul said, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). Here are opportunities to share something of God’s goodness and greatness in a way that speaks powerfully to children.
Consider Valentine’s Day, which passed by last week. Undoubtedly this holiday—like Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving—has descended into a pit of inanity and outright sin. But its simple message, uncorrupted by the world, proves biblical enough. To celebrate love—both human and divine—seems decidedly Christian. Why not redeem this holiday by teaching our children not about superficial, tawdry, spurious romantic love, but rather about the incomparable love of God—and the resultant love of Christians for one another? Our daughter, age three, loves Valentine’s Day because, like most kids, she loves celebrations. But the message she heard was the Lord’s: “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). I would not want to miss an opportunity like that.
Scripture enjoins celebration (Exodus 23:15-16; Esther 9:28; Psalm 145:7; Luke 15:23). Throughout her history, Israel celebrated—occasionally wildly—God’s remarkable faithfulness (e.g. Exodus 15:1-21; 1 Kings 8:62-66). Let us take advantage of these days of celebration to dazzle our children with God’s goodness and grace. That is the power of redemption, not retreat.