“I do come home at Christmas,” Charles Dickens – the man who wrote A Christmas Carol – once said.
“We all do, or we all should. We all come home, or ought to come home, for a short holiday – the longer, the better – from the great boarding school where we are forever working at our arithmetical slates, to take, and give a rest.”
But what do you tell your children about Christmas? What do you understand about Christmas? Is Christmas all about giving and receiving presents? Or is it about Christmas trees and Santa Claus?
Why am I asking those questions? Well, I received an email from a friend. I am not sure if he wrote it or the story was forwarded to him, but it made me ponder: What is the true meaning of Christmas? Please read the story below before answering the question:
Just a week before Christmas I had a visitor. This is how it happened. I just finished the household chores for the night and was preparing to go to bed, when I heard a noise in the front of the house.
I opened the door to the front room and to my surprise, Santa himself stepped out next to the fireplace.
“What are you doing?” I inquired. The words choked up in my throat and I saw he had tears in his eyes.
His usual jolly manner was gone. Gone was the eager, boisterous soul we all know. He then answered me with a simple statement: “Teach the children…”
I was puzzled. What did Santa Claus mean? He anticipated my question and with one quick movement brought forth a miniature toy bag from behind the tree. As I stood bewildered, Santa said again, “Teach the children!
Teach them the old meaning of Christmas, the meaning that modern Christmas has forgotten.”
Santa Claus then reached in his bag and pulled out a fir tree and placed it before the mantle.
He explained, “Teach the children that the pure green color of the stately fir tree remains green all year round, depicting the everlasting hope of mankind, all the needles point heavenward, making it a symbol of man’s thoughts turning toward heaven.”
The Father Christmas again reached into his bag and pulled out a brilliant star. “Teach the children that the star was the heavenly sign of promises long ago,” he said. “God promised a Savior for the world, and the star was the sign of fulfillment of His promise.”
Then Santa Claus reached into his bag once more and pulled out a candle. “Teach the children that the candle symbolizes that Christ is the light of the world, and when we see this great light we are reminded of He who displaces the darkness,” he said.
Once again Santa Claus reached into his bag and removed a wreath and placed it on the tree.
“Teach the children that the wreath symbolizes the real nature of love,” he said. “Real love never ceases. Love is one continuous round of affection.”
Santa Claus then pulled from his bag an ornament of himself. “Teach the children that I, Santa Claus, symbolize the generosity and good will we feel during the month of December,” he pointed out.
He then brought out a holly leaf and then explained, “Teach the children that the holly plant represents immortality. It represents the crown of thorns worn by our Savior. The red holly berries represent the blood shed by Him.”
Next Santa Claus pulled from his bag a gift and said, “Teach the children that God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son.” (Please read John 3:16.)
Santa Claus then reached in his bag and pulled out a candy cane and hung it on the tree.
"Teach the children that the candy cane represents the shepherds’ crook," he said. "The crook on the staff helps to bring back strayed sheep to the flock. The candy cane is the symbol that we are our brother’s keeper.”
Father Christmas reached in again and pulled out an angel: “Teach the children that it was the angels that heralded in the glorious news of the Savior’s birth. The angels sang Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace and good will toward men.”
Suddenly I heard a soft twinkling sound, and from his bag he pulled out a bell. “Teach the children,” he said, “that as the lost sheep are found by the sound of the bell, it should ring mankind to the fold. The bell symbolizes guidance and return.”
Santa Claus looked back and was pleased. He looked back at me and I saw that the twinkle was back in his eyes. He reminded, “Remember, teach the children the true meaning of Christmas and do not put me in the center, for I am but a humble servant of the One that is, and I bow down to worship him, our Lord, our God.”
This reminds me of the words of Frank McKibben. “This is Christmas: not the tinsel, not the giving and receiving, not even the carols,” he wrote. “But the humble heart that receives anew the wondrous gift – the Christ.”
To end this piece, allow me to quote the words of an author: “Until one feels the spirit of Christmas, there is no Christmas. All else is outward display-so much tinsel and decorations. For it isn’t the holly, it isn’t the snow.
It isn’t the tree not the firelight’s glow. It’s the warmth that comes to the hearts of men when the Christmas spirit returns again.”