It seems to be starting earlier this year. Christmas decorations showed up in stores weeks ago, and now everyone I talk to is decorating their homes with trees, garlands, and all kinds of evergreen somethings. And here I am, still planning a Thanksgiving menu. I love the fun of it as much as anyone does, but only as long as the original reason we celebrate does not get lost in the excitement.
Allow me to interject a chiche’ here. “It isn’t Christmas without Christ.” The gift of eternal salvation surpasses any trinket, electronic, wearable, or consumable you can find in a brick and mortar or cyber store. Amen to that! The question then centers on how to keep Christ at the center of the season.
I made a list of the people on my gift list and slipped it into my purse. Along with reminding me to shop for them, it is a ready reminder to pray for them. Seeing their names prompts visual images of each person and usually conjures up a fond memory. (Imagine some lady walking around a shopping mall laughing to herself.)
If you’re like me, grandchildren hit the top of the list. What is the best thing you can give them? Hint: it has nothing to do with running up a huge credit card debt, but it has the power to last an eternity. It is the message of faith in Christ as our Savior. The fun part is that putting this wonderful gift into an alluring package is really quite simple.
Advent calendars, the kind that mark the 24 days leading up to Christmas with daily doses of Bible verses and chocolate, are a big hit at my house. During last year’s Christmas celebrations, my grandson decided to read each of the Advent calendar messages aloud to our family. It planted Jesus right into the middle of our gifts, where He belongs. Truly, His is the greatest gift anyone can ever receive.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8
Let’s all get into the true spirit of Christmas. Let me know what you’re doing at barbhowe.org.
Time is experienced differently by children and adults. Have you ever found yourself thinking, “Didn’t we just celebrate” (a birthday, Christmas, or the start of summer) a few days ago?” From a child’s perspective, the time between annual events must seem endless. To me, not so much. The difference seems to stem from the ratio of years to age.
A one-year cycle represents something like 12 percent of an 8-year-old’s life, a far smaller percentage for those in my age range. I thought about this the day after my grandson celebrated a special event, when he suggested what he wanted to do the next time around, as if he might forget before it happened. Do your grandkids do this stuff?
From an eternal perspective, we are all speeding through time. The difference is that youth views life as a long road with an eventual end; oldsters reflect on the long journey traveled while pondering our ultimate destination. An abstract conclusion ages into an imminent reality. Having experienced this transition, I now view each new year as a possibility, eternity as a certainty.
Nobody can accurately count our remaining days on earth. That could be why some of us live as if today may be our last. One of our duties as grandparents is to prepare future generations for eternity, and to do so in a manner that balances the delights of this life with the unimaginable joy of meeting our Savior face to face.
We are not responsible for bringing our grandchildren to faith in Christ. That’s the job of the Holy Spirit. Our duty is to present the Word of God to younger generations and encourage them by example. It means obeying the command given to us in Deuteronomy 4:9: “Be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”
Some of life’s best experiences are eternally engraved into our consciousness. Summer days spent lakeside come to mind. Nothing quite compares to the chattering sounds of kids playing at a beach or splashing in the water.
This year, my husband and I took one of those “first” kind of vacations with our grandson at a Christian camp in central Wisconsin: Northern Pines. Their advertisements promoting the week long experience as a “vacation with a purpose” was spot on.
Following breakfast, morning programs had children age 0-8 attending Vacation Bible Study activities with others in their age categories while parents and grandparents attended their own studies. Families regrouped for lunch, afternoon free time, and dinner. All meals were included, eliminating any need to cook – or clean up. (That kicked the experience up a notch or two, possibly 10.)
Youth and teens participated in separate programs at adjoining sites with special times to spend with their families. During the evenings, Child Care Assistants, a.k.a. CCAs, cared for their assigned children while the adults attended worship and study time. (Whoever came up with this system had heavenly inspiration.)
Midway through the week I found myself sitting in the dining hall marveling at the way families interacted with old and new friends. It brought home the reality that heaven is not about floating around on clouds playing harps. Heaven is described in Revelation 21 as a place of fellowship for those who put their trust in Jesus. Now that is one endless experience I look forward to having.
If Satan wants anything, he wants to prevent the spread of Christ’s message for salvation. When a grandparent decides to share their faith with a grandchild, it’s a sure bet the enemy will send some flaming arrows to block the communication. This is often referred to as spiritual warfare.
The weapons Satan launches might be directed against you and your family members, or they might show up as unexpected distractions. Just know the more fervently you work to honor God with your legacy, the more resistance you will face. Don’t give in. Let God take care of the details. If you’ve studied the Bible, you already know the victory belongs to Him.
You also know the opposition can get fierce. Let’s face it, if your testimony of faith were not powerful, Satan would not have any interest in trying to stop it’s spread. For this reason, consider the fact that you are facing opposition to be a testament to the glory of God. Get your battle plan in order.
“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God,
so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers, against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world
and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armor of God,
so that when the day of evil comes,
you may be able to stand your ground,
and after you have done everything, to stand.
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,
with the breastplate of righteousness in place,
and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith,
with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6: 10-17 NIV).
I sometimes find songs are helpful to keep my mind cleared from spiritual distractions. The Battle Belongs to the Lord, by Petra is one such song. Give it a listen.
Blurring the line between leisurely pastimes and lessons of faith may be as easy as popping a video into the player on a rainy afternoon. Its a chance to sit down with a grandchild for a respite from the constant motion. (In my case, said motions often involves dodging projectiles and bracing for body slams.) With the right video, I have found it is possible to get even the most physically active child to park it long enough to have an in-depth conversation.
A few days ago my grandson and I watched the Narnia movie together. And as we watched, I made a point of explaining the parallel between Aslan and Jesus as well as the one between the White Witch and Satan. C. S. Lewis made them obvious enough that even a child could follow what was being presented. All I had to do was ask a few questions and toss in a few comments about the allure of sin and its destructive outcome. (I’m told by a reliable source in my home that my grandson and I engage in some pretty lively discussions.) We also talked about the power of Jesus’ love to overcome death for those who trust in Him.
It has been a few years since I read the entire Chronicles of Narnia. I’m now tasked with locating the source of the western lamp-post near the wardrobe entrance and determining when the castle at Cair Paravel came into existence. Hopefully, these answers will fuel my grandson’s interest in the story line enough to get him reading the other books in the Narnia Chronicles. I do this because part of my job as a Christian grandparent is to share the reasons for my faith.
My grandson is a big fan of anything related to dinosaurs, sharks, or sci-fi space exploration. It’s part of what makes him unique and part of what makes hanging around with him interesting. Exploring the things he cares about is one way to show that I care about him as an individual. This is true even though sci-fi things are not on my top 10 list of priorities.
You may have a grandchild whose interests reach an equally high level of enthusiasm, albeit not necessarily for the same subjects. Regardless of the topic, our grandchildren’s interests offer ready opportunities to share our faith. Start by meeting them where they are and listening to what they have to say. When it comes to fantasy, look for openings to direct your conversation to the difference between what is real and what is not.
For example, there is no proof that tooth fairies exist, but their legends follow traditions that have a way of getting passed down through generations. Tooth fairy traditions can be fun because losing teeth is a rite of passage for children, even though adults understand the stories have no basis in reality. The same can be said for a number of other traditions, such as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.
By contrast, numerous historical records show Jesus is a real person who lived and died some 2000 years ago. No denying that. But what about His miraculous resurrection after spending three days in the tomb? Or His subsequent physical appearances over a period of 40 days? Check out what the Gospel writers have to say about this in their closing chapters. To believe Jesus did not rise from the dead is to say more than 500 people witnessed a common illusion at different times and places.
Perhaps the greatest evidence to the resurrection of Jesus is the response of His disciples. These are the guys who fled and hid when Jesus was arrested and crucified, but emerged into society at the end of those 40 days with a boldness that could not be explained by anything other than the fact that Jesus really is who He said He is. These are the guys who lost it all by worldly standards, but gained it all as measured by eternity.
Test out my idea the next time you and a grandchild get to talking about something that’s based on myth, fantasy, or legend. Hear what they have to say, and seize the moment to give them a loving dose of eternal reality.