The genius of Santa Claus is that he builds up children’s anticipation of Christmas. They really look forward to the day. “Nine more sleeps until Christmas,” and all that.
So those presents under the tree on Christmas morning not only evoke the gifts which the wise men presented at Bethlehem; they also provoke the excited expectation which must have captivated Mary and Joseph. It’s good practice for an adult approach to Advent.
The downside of Santa is that he can distract from the religious meaning of Christmas. The North Pole and presents can easily overshadow Bethlehem and faith. So Christian families everywhere deliberately refocus attention on the Nativity on Christmas Day.
In our family, the exchange of Christmas presents after lunch is always preceded by three or four Christmas carols, and a rendition of “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. It works — I grew up a believer, didn’t I? — but this year, I’m going to experiment with an additional item, which places the scriptural account of Christmas front and centre:
Basically, I’m proposing a novel excuse to recite the scriptural account of the Lord’s Nativity. Here’s a quick example:
In the days of Caesar Augustus, a census was called which counted every man in the civilised world. So Joseph and Mary set out from Nazareth to Bethlehem, following a familiar but Rocky Road.
I didn’t invent this idea, but I’ve refined and improved it, so that:
- the chocolate featured is available at Australian supermarkets;
- all mention of chocolate occurs at the end of a sentence; and
- the narrative hews closely to the Gospels of Luke and Matthew.
You can download my version right here. If you print it at 100% scale on both sides of an A4 sheet, you’ve got yourself a formatted booklet.
This year, I’m collaborating with my three young nephews, who will each have one third of the chocolate cache. When I name one of the chocolates in their possession, they have to jump up, chocolate in hand, and repeat the name. That should keep everyone listening.
Maybe in future years, we can pile the chocolates in the middle of the room, and people who want a particular chocolate bar have to be the first to correctly fill in the gap when the narrator pauses. A contest like that can also guarantee that people listen the story.
We’ll see how it lands this year. Why not try it yourself?
(NB: my nephews don’t read this blog, but some of their aunts and uncles do. The boys intend to surprise the family, so don’t tell them you saw it here first!)