As a Christmas-celebrating non-Christian family, we've already had a few moments as parents during which we have been challenged, by our children, to explain our "faith"...despite our lack of religion. Evan went to a church-based 3-year old preschool, and Jesus and God were woven into nearly every lesson. Naturally, he came home with questions. We were okay with that because we want our children to be exposed to a number of different world views, cultures, and belief systems. We want them to have the Knowledge Of Many Opinions to feel free to explore their own beliefs....even if that means that they may stray from our own.
It started when Evan asked about God.
Since then, we've had conversations about what happens when someone dies and more conversations about "God." A few weeks ago, Evan came home from school with some new information to share: "You know what? God is all around you all the time. That's what E says anyway. I don't know for sure."
Most recently, our conversation began in a church. We were there to celebrate my niece as she participated as an angel in her preschool's Christmas program. Sitting in the pew, Max noticed the many thick, picture-less books in the book racks on the pew in front of us. "Why are there so many books?" he asked.
"Those are Bibles," I answered.
[Giggle!] "Bible!" [Giggle!] "That's a funny word!" he laughed.
The family in front of us couldn't help but overhear. The father shot me an unequivocal "Not from around here, eh?" look.
As the Christmas program went on, my dad pointed out the players to Max...Mary, Joseph, innkeepers, donkeys, etc. Max was enthralled.
We came home and Max noticed our two Nativities that are out with our Christmas decorations. As they always are at this time of year...because we may not be Christian, but Jesus is, after all, the reason for the season. "Hey, Mommy? Is this the Baby Jesus?" he asked.
"It is, buddy. Just like you saw in Lauren's Christmas program." (And, uh, like we talked about a week ago when we got the Nativities out...)
"Mommy? Can you tell me the story of Baby Jesus?"
And this is where I hesitated for a fraction of a second. Would the story I learned in my catechism classes still make sense if I took the Son of God piece out? Is that a misuse of editorial privilege? Am I denying him the Knowledge that we have always said we wanted him to have....the information he will ultimately use to find his own spiritual path?
Am I over-thinking it?
Of course. I always do.
And so I just told him a story.
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, the world was not a nice place. People were mean and greedy and unkind. Some Wise Men, who were Great Thinkers, knew that a new King was going to be born...a King that would teach people how to be nice and thoughtful and kind...a King that would teach people how to have Love in their hearts and to take care of each other.
Well, Mary, who was about to have a baby, was traveling with her husband, Joseph. When they got to the next town, there were no rooms for Mary and Joseph to stay in. All of the hotels were full. So, Mary and Joseph had to stay in the stable with all of the farm animals. When the baby, Jesus, was born, Mary had to lay him down in the hay because there wasn't a crib for him.
As soon as Baby Jesus was born, something magical happened....a brand new star lit up in the sky. It was brighter and more special than any other star in the sky. The Wise Men saw it and knew that the new King had been born...and they followed it to find him. And they brought him presents!
When Baby Jesus grew up, he became a great teacher and leader. He showed the people around him that it was better to live with love and kindness in your heart then to be mean and greedy.
Today, we celebrate Christmas to remember that Baby Jesus was born....All year, YOU have been nice and thoughtful and kind. You have shown love to your family and friends...like when you let Molly use your princesses and your ponies, even when you had them first...And you have helped take care of others...like when we bought food for the Food Bank and when we bought clothes and toys for the kids who don't have new clothes and toys....and so Mommy and Daddy and Santa show you how proud we are of you by giving you presents....
And he smiled. And he ran downstairs to tell Daddy the Story.
And so it was. The Christmas Story....for non-Christians. I believe in Jesus....as a historical figure. An important leader. I believe in his message. I don't think I need to believe that he was the son of God in order to achieve eternal salvation. But his story is right for this time of year....the time of thinking of others. The time of Giving. The time of Family. The time of Love. And, because I'm a Mommy and I can't help myself...the Time of Presents.
The real reason for the season? Call it what you like....in my opinion, it's Love. Plain and Simple.