Although it’s been many years since I was a little girl, watching the falling snow and basking in the light of our Christmas decorations always takes me back to the magical Christmases of my childhood. My favorite thing to do was to sit by our tree, just gazing at the colored lights and breathing in the glorious scent of fresh pine. I often thought about all the season would bring, and it filled me with joy. I anticipated singing in the Christmas play at our church, traveling to see family, and of course I was excited to think about opening gifts. But most of all, I loved thinking about Jesus, the Son of God, coming to this earth as a mere helpless and innocent baby. I was in awe of such a concept, even as a child around 4 or 5 years old. Every Christmas until I was 7 or 8, I remember borrowing one of my mom’s laundry baskets and stuffing a couple of pillows inside, then taking a doll I lovingly dubbed “Baby Jesus,” wrapping him in a soft blanket, and laying him inside. I would put my makeshift “manger” beside the tree and sit next to it with a sheet over my head, pretending to be Mary. Then I would gaze down at baby Jesus, often with tears filling my eyes, and think about how this precious baby would one day grow up into a man and have to die. I loved Him so much, and wanted so badly to protect Him, to somehow keep Him from dying. To shield Him from all the cruelty and suffering I knew He would one day be subjected to. Of course at that age, I didn’t understand fully how much it was actually God’s plan for Him to die to save us all, or how He would willingly give Himself as “the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.” But I knew He had truly been born to die, and that thought pierced my young, tender “mother’s” heart with such grief that I could hardly endure it.
As I write this, the emotions are still very tangible to me, and the tears still come unbidden to my eyes. But mostly they come now because in reflecting on this memory, I realize the reason for my tenderness towards Jesus was due to how my parents raised me to know Him. The way they focused my little heart on Him and His goodness, pointed me towards His love and taught me His ways and how to have a relationship with Him. Without their guidance I’m convinced I would have never loved Jesus the way I do today. I think of this present Christmas in which I am now a mother to two precious little boys who rely on me and my husband to teach them the truth. To show them that Christmas is not about Santa and gifts and stockings and trees (although those things are fun and definitely a part of the holiday season), but rather about a tiny baby in a manger who came to save them from their sin. As parents, we have a responsibility to teach them to make room for Him in their hearts, not just at Christmas, but all year long, every year of their lives.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” As Christian moms, many of us, I’m sure, are familiar with this scripture. I’ve always found it to be such an encouraging and comforting promise from the Word of God! He is telling us as parents that if we take the time and energy to invest His truth into the lives of our children, it will not be in vain. As they grow they may have moments of doubt or seasons of temptation, but in their hearts the seed that has been planted will remain and will eventually reap a good harvest. I know many men and women who, although their parents raised them to know Jesus, walked away from Him for a time, but are now serving and loving God and will never depart from their love of the truth. Satan may have tried to steer them off the straight and narrow path, but because of the Word planted in their hearts, he could not. God’s Word did not return void, but it prospered in the thing for which it was sent. Amen! But the sobering reality is that in order for it to prosper, it must first be sent. It must first be planted in that fertile soil of a child’s tender heart, then watered and cultivated and encouraged to grow. It is not just important; it is vital that we as the parents and stewards of our children train them in knowing God from the very beginning, because if we don’t, no one else will. In fact, the world will teach them not to know Him. So, it’s up to us, and we cannot take our God-given job lightly, for it has not just temporal, but also eternal consequences. I’m so thankful my parents invested in my relationship with Jesus although at times it meant sacrifice, for there is no greater gift they could have given me than the joy of knowing Him.
My oldest son, Isaac, who will be 5 in a couple of weeks (wow, where has the time gone?!?) has recently started blossoming in His relationship with Jesus, and it fills my heart with the greatest joy imaginable. I have always sung “Jesus Loves Me” and prayed over him before bedtime, talked with him about Jesus, read him books about God, and he has recently memorized a few scripture verses. Then a few months ago we were led to buy the SuperBook series of Bible DVDs produced by CBN…and they have been such a life changer for him! His knowledge and awareness of who God is has increased ten-fold! He’s always talking about God and Jesus, wants to pray over our meals all the time, offers to pray for us if we’re sick, and just has an overall sense of God and His presence. He told me the other day, “My God can do ANYTHING!” He’s even “written” a song called “I Love My God.” The faith in his heart is so real and amazing, and I am thrilled and excited to see it grow even more as he ages! Of course I have not been perfect in teaching him about Jesus, and neither has my husband…in fact, the truth is we’ve been poor examples of Christ at times. Yet despite our failures, God’s grace sustains us, and we are consistently pointing him and our younger son, Stephen, towards Jesus the best way we know how. We are training them in the way they should go, just as my husband and I were by our parents. And when they are old, they will not depart from it. As a mom, that’s God’s promise to me, and He always keeps His promises. And if it’s my promise, it’s yours too.
So this Christmas, no matter what your family traditions, make an effort to turn the gaze of your children back to the wonder of the manger, and ultimately, to the power of the cross. Make it a priority to lift the Messiah high: over your home, over your relationships, over all the busyness of this season. Make it the most important thing for those young eyes to see the most important gift of all, Jesus. Because when they see Him, they will be drawn to His love and never desire to leave. Lead them to the baby in the manger and He will become the Savior in their hearts, not just this Christmas, but for every Christmas to come.