A few weeks ago I took my 4 year old son Christmas shopping. At the church we attend, our family participates in a yearly charity sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse called “Operation Christmas Child”. We pack a shoe box with a variety of gifts, which is sent to children in “Third World” countries. I pack one for a boy while my wife packs one for a girl.
I took my son to help me pick out the gifts. I want to instil in him the understanding that Christmas isn’t about “him” getting gifts from Santa Claus, but that during this time of year it is more important to give to those who don’t have as much as we do. So as we shopped, we had a conversation about what Christmas really means and how we celebrate this season as a family.
I went on to explain that Santa Claus isn’t a real person but he is “pretend”. I impressed upon my son that his mother and I, as well as our friends and family members buy him the gifts… not only during Christmas but all through the year. I further explained that the reason we are buying these gifts for the boys and girls is that their family and friends don’t have the extra money to do so and there is really no Santa Claus to bring them presents.
I could see that he was listening intently while his little mind was processing what I was telling him. He understood what I was saying, but he still wanted to believe that Santa Claus must be real. That’s what he sees on television. That’s what he learns in school. That’s what people are always ask him: “what do you want for Christmas from Santa?”
Since that day we have had a number of conversations about the meaning of Christmas. If you ask him now what is Christmas, he answers that it’s Jesus’ birthday. If you ask, he’ll say that Santa Claus is pretend, although it is evident that he still wants to believe that he is real. He’ll tell you that his mommy, daddy, friends and family buy him his gifts… that they don’t come from Santa. I explained to him that we give each other gifts just like the 3 wise men brought gifts to baby Jesus when he was born and as a way to remember that God gave us the gift of his Son Jesus.
At four, I don’t expect him to understand and accept it all. However, we’re not allowing him to be conditioned by our society’s values into being self absorbed and materialistic. Furthermore, I don’t believe it’s healthy for black children (especially boys), to be conditioned to believe that all good things come from a white man… a fat old white man with a long white beard at that. I believe it subconsciously undervalues their appreciation for the efforts of their parents (especially their fathers), it further undermines their own self esteem and respect for black men as a whole, and it grooms them to be easy prey for that seemingly nice (old) white man.
In his own way, my son does show us that he has an understanding of the true “reason for the season”: the celebration of the birth of Christ, the love of God, family and friends, and that it’s better to give than receive. So far he hasn’t asked us for even one present.
This is the Christmas lesson we want him to learn and incorporate into his life.
A few months ago a friend and I had a very intense disagreement which led to some very harsh words being exchanged. A few days ago out of the blue (is it ever really just “out of the blue” ?) while on Facebook, he hit me up and now all is forgiven and forgotten. We are at peace.
“According to an article in the Canadian Army Journal, a former president of the Norwegian Academy of Science, aided by historians from England, Egypt, Germany, and India came up with some fantastic figures and findings:
Since 3600 B.C. the world has known only 292 years of peace. During this period there have been 14,531 wars, large and small, in which 3,640,000,000 people have been killed. The value of the destruction would pay for a golden belt around the world 97 miles wide and 33 feet thick. To put it another way, in world history we have seen 13 years of war for every year of peace. Since the beginning of time, more than 8,000 treaties of peace were concluded. Although meant to last forever, the average time they remained in force was 2 years. (Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations, p. 1571)”
The above reference was used during last Sunday’s sermon by our pastor. As I listened I asked myself: how many of these wars have been fought in the name of God? How many millions have been killed in the name of Christ, The Prince of Peace, whose birth we are celebrating at this time? How many of us, who profess to be followers of this Prince of Peace, are today involved in creating and perpetuating chaos, discord, fighting, rivalry and conflict? The pastor made a profound statement that we all, Christians and non-Christians, need to promote a culture of peace… one heart at a time! Easier said than done but Christ gives us a blueprint of how to accomplish this:
“You have heard that it was said, eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”
This doesn’t mean you must allow others to abuse and take advantage of you. It doesn’t mean you must be soft or weak and cower away in the face of oppression or aggression. It does mean that there are moments in each of our lives, when in the interest of peace, we all must summon the spiritual fortitude to forgo the need to fight to be right.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Op-ed submission by Project 21
Christmastime is supposed to be a time of good cheer, but what I have to say about it will likely offend some and infuriate others.
More often these days, it’s a time dominated by the concern: “What do I get the kids for Christmas?” A lot of parents plaintively searching for things they can ill-afford and – in reality – their kids really don’t need. But, for those unable to differentiate between wasting money, overspending and what a child really needs, the quest is on. Children really need something substantive and there is nothing more enduring than a fundamental understanding of what Christmas is about and the reason we celebrate it.
Christmas is about the birth of Christ. It is about the love of God for mankind. God sent His only Begotten Son, to be born of a virgin. Through His virgin birth, death and resurrection, we can have eternal life with Him if we confess, believe and accept Him in our hearts.
But too many parents only seem willing to sit with their children to watch imbecilic TV programs than discuss “Christmas Truths”. They will take their kids to Wal-Mart and Target before they take them to church. Some do go to church, but not not necessarily to learn of Christ. To them, it’s a Christmas obligation.
It’s all part of a larger problem of society being divided by educational preparedness. Children must be able to function on par levels to contribute to the continued devolvement of our nation’s intellectual ascendancy. I’m not against toys and gifts, but I am against ignorance. If children cannot read, write, speak or interact beyond the immediate environs of their neighborhoods, how will they be able to contribute to our tomorrow?
I was raised by a single mother who suffered an emotional breakdown when I was ten years old. Despite that, she never allowed her condition to excuse me from learning. I did not go without a toy, but the gifts I received -regardless of how basic – reinforced her belief in educational preparedness. They also came with the strict expectation that I excel academically. She and my grandmother set the bar high, and I was expected to respond.
Today, the bar generally seems to be lower. Children can repeat verbatim the words to dozens of stupid, worthless and – in many instances – vulgar, anti-social, misogynistic “rhymes” masquerading as music, but they have likely never read Charles Dickens or Mark Twain and or heard Bach or Brahms.
My grandmother used to say: “An excuse is the easiest thing in the world to find.” Parents today must stop making excuses for underperforming children. And to those parents who thump their chests with pride because they have a bumper sticker proclaiming their child’s honor status, they owe it to themselves to check the quality of the schooling.
In my office I have two old family photos – one from the mid/late 1880s, and the other from 1900. One was born a slave, while the two in the other photo were born just after emancipation. I was told that my relatives in those photos were able to read and write. For that era, it was a true gift.
Toys break and the newest electronic and computer games seem obsolete minutes after they are purchased. A truly valuable gift is a bankbook and savings account for a child to contribute to regularly – and to which there are strict guidelines for withdrawal. Too few children understand the value of money and the need to save it.
This Christmas, for those who choose not to share the Truth of Christmas, at least give children more than a video game or earrings. Give them something that, when they are older, they will still have.
Books don’t break and a penny saved is still a penny earned.
Mychal Massie is the chairman of the black leadership network Project 21.