As parents, Advent affords us incredible chance to talk to our children about the good news of Jesus Christ every year. However, I will honestly tell you that more often than not in my home, we let the busyness of the season get the best of us and we don’t approach the topic with our children like we should. We decorate the Christmas tree without mentioning why we celebrate Christmas, we help our children pick out presents for each other without talking about the greatest gift of all, and we sing Christmas carols without stopping to discuss the lyrics.
I’m not saying we fail in every instance; there are definitely teachable moments I have taken advantage of. But too often my mindset is one of “I just need to get this done so I can move onto the next holiday task,” rather than “let’s stop and remember why we have the holidays in the first place.”
And that’s not OK.
So it was a real gift to me earlier this week when I read an article by Pastor Paul Tripp on the topic of the Christmas tree.
In the article, Tripp talks about the family ritual they have of going to pick out a real Christmas tree, strapping it to the top of their car and bringing it home to their house to decorate. He talks about the much-anticipated moment where the whole family sits in the darkness for a moment before they turn the lights on and the tree illuminates the room.
Then, Tripp wrote the words that I hope will stick with me for a lifetime. Words that have convicted my heart and truly moved it. He says,
I love these kinds of moments, because I think as believers, we should be the most celebratory community on earth…But I am concerned that we remember — and that we help our children remember — that while this wonderful holiday season is about a tree, it’s not about the beautiful tree in your living room that you’ve so carefully decorated.
My friends, it’s not about the Christmas tree. “From the moment of his first breath, the life of that baby in the manger was marching toward a tree,” Tripp continues. “It would not be a tree of beauty or celebration, but of sacrifice and death.”
The real Christmas tree is the cross.
My dear fellow parents, I think I can give myself a gold star for talking to my children about the meaning of Christmas being Jesus’s birth, but I may have failed them in pointing them towards the reality that the reason for Christmas is ultimately Jesus’s death. The Bible makes it very clear that the reason He was born is because He needed to be born so He could die for us.
It is a truth that on the surface may appear to be ugly, but in reality is the most beautiful fact that ever was. It is a truth that may make a joyful holiday seem somber, but actually gives us cause for most exuberant of celebrations. It is a truth that should fill us with the wonder of the season like nothing else can.
It is a truth that we must bring home to our children. As Tripp says, Advent is a gift to parents. An opportunity like no other for us to point our kids to Christ. He suggests we ask our children six questions as we tell them the Advent story, as we sit around the beautiful Christmas tree and point them towards the homely, holy tree that Christ would die on — the cross.
- What is this season about?
- Why did Jesus have to come?
- What is it that I need?
- How will those needs be met?
- Who am I and what is my life about?
- How is it that I am supposed to live?
The Advent season is still young. It is not too late to start a dialogue with your children. I’m so thankful that I found Tripp’s words and that they pointed me back in the right direction. I pray that you’ll take this Advent opportunity to sit around the glowing Christmas tree and point your kids to Christ this season— not just to his birth, but to his death, and why we needed it.
Without the cross, my friends, there would be no reason for the Christmas tree. I am so thankful for both.