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More Thoughts on Santa, Anyone?

Over the past couple of days I’ve come across many blog posts and tweets on opinions about Santa. Hey, I even chimed in a few days ago.

I thought I’d include some of what I’ve come across here for further discussion.

For an anthropologist’s view on Santa check out Jenell Paris’s article over on Patheos. (HT: Dave Csinos)

Here’s an ad put out by the United Church in Canada (HT: Dave Csinos):

In the same vein, here’s a music video by Becky Kelley entitled, “Where’s the Line to See Jesus?”:

What are your thoughts on these?

Katy Perry and Elmo Duet Pulled From Sesame Street Season Opener

If you haven’t already heard about it, you probably will. As has become one of Sesame Street’s more fun traditions, they invited a popular singer to come and record a “kid-ified” version of one of their well-known songs with one or more of the Sesame Street cast. Most recently, Katy Perry recorded a version of her song Hot N’ Cold with Elmo that would be airing on the September 27th season opener. As of September 23rd, Sesame Street pulled the segment due to comments about the amount of her cleavage being shown. You can read a bit more about it at one of the Wall Street Journal blogs.

I’ve got my own thoughts about the video and the attention/controversy surrounding it. I’d love to hear from you all, though (I’ll post my thoughts later in the comments):

  • What are your thoughts about the video?
  • What would you tell parents who are outraged at the video?
  • What would you tell parents who are outraged it was pulled?

Guinness Anyone?

I ran across the following video on Internet Monk. It’s Os Guinness talking about the culture war in the US has contributed to the creation of new athiests. So sorry if you were expecting the other Guinness ;)

So, what are your thoughts?

We look at the stats of people dropping out of church as they graduate high school and are quick to point to all the externals: postmodern pluralism and relativism, lack of teaching a “Biblical worldview,” over secularization of media and society, etc. What if the problem is inside? What if the problem isn’t what we aren’t teaching? What if the problem is what WE ARE teaching?

12-year-old TED speaker!

Take a look at the above interview of Adora Svitak. She is twelve years old and was a speaker at TED 2010! Wow! She is an accomplished author and speaker.

I loved that she challenges adults to learn from children. I think we can do that about education and about spirituality as well. I think so many times we can get so caught up in teaching children that we forget that God can use them to teach us as well.

I remember one time with the Kindergarten class I am currently leading, as we were praying one of the children spontaneously started thanking God for various things like her house and her parents. I was about to correct her for interrupting my prayer when I almost audibly heard God tell me to shut up… no joke. God used this little 5-year-old to teach me that spontaneous praise and thanks is an important part of prayer. Since then, I’ve tried to allow for that time with the kids. It’s been one of my favorite times!

How about you? What has God taught your through children? What are ways that we can continue to be open to learn from children?

On a side note… my wife and I are loving reading ChildFaith by Don and Brenda Ratcliff. In addition to teaching parents how to pass on faith to children, it also teaches parents how to learn faith from their children. We’ll be posting a joint review on the book soon!

Christmas is Supposed to Be Magical

(picture originally uploaded to Flickr by James Jordan)

OK, I’m going to add my thoughts to all the Christmas and Santa posts that have come out. (You can see some here, here, here, here, here, and here; if I didn’t link to yours, then leave it in the comments.)

In a spirit of full disclosure, I will say that in our home Santa is a game. We talk about him around Christmastime when the kids bring him up and when we go to the mall and see him. Most of what they know about Santa they get from friends or TV shows. We don’t discourage it or necessarily encourage it. We play along. I’ve got four kids. The two oldest (10 and 8) have figured out Santa is a game. Our two youngest (4 and 2) haven’t figured it out yet. Growing up, Santa wasn’t a big deal. As long as I can remember, I’ve known it was treated as a game in my family… a fun one that we enjoyed playing.

Now on to my thoughts…

Christmas is about the fulfillment of thousands of years of promises by God to send a Savior to the world–Jesus. He did it, though, in the most unconventional and least expected of ways. Jesus arrived as a baby. The God of the universe, who has always existed, who is the Word responsible for the creation of all things became a baby! He was born of a virgin! Angels announced his arrival… to shepherds of all people! A star announced his arrival and guided astronomers from the East to see him! OK, I’ll stop with the exclamation marks…

The Christmas story is a miraculous one filled with mystery and, dare I say it, magic. If it weren’t for the mystery and magic of it all, I don’t think there would even be a Santa or Rudolf or whatever stories there are about belief, generosity, selflessness and peace. It is the miracle of God becoming man that sparks many of the stories, myths, and legends that exist about Santa.

Now, I’m not saying that we replace Jesus with Santa… or even that we go to extreme lengths to perpetuate the Santa myth. I do think, though, that we snuff the mystery and magic and miracle surrounding Christmas by turning a hose on the imaginative spark in people. We are so quick to point to facts and figures. We distill the miracle of Jesus born to a mere historical fact just so that we can feel good about ourselves because we stuck to the truth. We make claims that children will be confused about Jesus if we don’t expose the myth of Santa to them. We try and remove any vestiges of imagination or story from Christmas in the name of historical fact.

Is our faith that fragile? Is the faith of our children that fragile? If it is, it isn’t because of a juvenile belief in Santa. If we are living out our faith in front of our children everyday of the year, then Jesus is the one constant that children will have in their lives while all the other stories will become just that–stories–as they grow and develop the cognitive ability to distinguish between real and fantasy.

So I say, let the magic and mystery and miracle of Christmas live on! Point children to the truths of faith, generosity, sacrifice, etc. that show up in different Christmas stories. Emphasize that Christmas is about Jesus’ birth and the miracle of that. Celebrate Advent with your children and look forward in anticipation to the Christ-child…. and enjoy the Santa stories. You can even tell them about the real person behind Santa–St. Nicholas. (VeggieTales has a recent video that does a fun job of telling that story!)

Life According to 9-Year-Olds

Take a look at this video of some nine year old kids and their reflections. (HT: Alltop)

It’s interesting what you learn about kids when you take time to talk and listen to them. When is the last time you sat down with a group of kids and simply listened to them? When’s the last time you’ve heard their take on the world around them?

Twitter? Facebook? What’s the Dif?

(image taken from BRANDing blog)

Thanks to my good friend Steve Tanner, I read this great post on the differences between Twitter and Facebook Status updates.

In short, it comes down to Facebook being more about conversations and keeping up with people you already have realationships with and Twitter is more about personal branding and meeting new people. (Yes, there are exceptions to these broad generalizations!)

Many people have different thoughts on all of these multiple social networking platforms (add things like MySpace, Orkut, FriendFeed, Tumblr, Posterous, Ning communities, etc) and what to be a part of and how to update each. Some keep them separate and some try and consolidate it all.

As far as Twitter and Facebook go, I think the article does a good job of clearing some things up.

What are you thoughts? Do these different things help what you do? hinder what you do? How much is too much?

Personally, I keep my accounts separate and do different things with them. The key for me is to have specific purposes for each and limiting the time I spend on each.

Missional Halloween

I grew up with schizophrenia when it came to Halloween. I remember being very young and going to a Halloween party at my church with carnival games and dressing up and such. I remember dressing up and trick or treating. I even remember times where we turned off the lights and pretended not to be home because Halloween was evil. Whatever Dobson or Fallwell or Robertson said about Halloween from year to year determined what we did. I’ve heard all about the evil origins of Halloween. I’ve read the articles and tracts. I think we even gave out some of those tracts one year.

I ran across this post from Michael Spencer as well as this other one that Spencer refers to in his post that give a different understanding of Halloween history than what I was familiar with. I thought they were interesting.

Regardless of the origins of Halloween and what each person chooses to do on that day, Halloween does offer a great opportunity for us to be in our neighborhoods and interacting with the people we live around. We can choose to create our own alternatives so we can feel good about not celebrating evil yet still having fun. We can choose to participate in the fun and go from house to house gathering candy while dressed up. Or we can find ways to build relationships with our neighbors.

What does that look like? Well, if you’re a regular reader of Elemental Children’s Ministry then you already know the answer to that question. It depends on you, your culture and your context. For some that means setting up activities in your front yard that neighborhood kids can participate in, giving you time to interact with other parents and guardians. For others, it might mean handing out hot chocolate and coffee to shivering kids and adults. For another group of people it could mean giving out boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts that were left over after a fundraiser as a thank you as your kids get candy from various homes (we did this one year… it was so much fun!). Use your imagination!

As an extra treat, here’s a video of our Family Pumpkin Party this past Sunday.

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