The Tree is up -- as scheduled, erected the weekend after Thanksgiving. By order of his majesty my husband; and it will come down promptly on New Year's Day, if not a day or two sooner. I decorated it myself, after the husband assembled it (plastic tree); while he watched football and my son lay on the couch recovering from a virus.
I have purchased chocolate Advent calendars for my Sunday School kids, and one for my son, who is seven. They, like he, once they figured out the trick of pulling open the tiny paper doors to reveal the abstemious token chocolate drops within, elected to simply open the box from the bottom and/or open as many little doors as they could find, to gobble up more of the yummy German confections. And at 9:30am this past Sunday I also gave them mini candy canes -- because I'd found an Advent lesson that derived multi-layered Christian symbolism from a simple hard candy.
We haven't talked much at all about the baby Jesus, around the house. Not even tonight, with my husband away -- in fact, the kid and I spent a solid chunk of the evening on the couch reading together the adventures of Captain Underpants. After supper, we watched "Madagascar," and ate cookies made from the store-brand instant chocolate chip cookie dough. I had a glass of wine. Then the kid took a bath, and I started this post. I assume he's getting some of the essentials at Sunday School, I just don't know how to make it a topic at home, in part because my husband is quite resistant to that. Partly because I don't have a particularly well thought out plan B. I feel a little remiss-- well, a lot remiss -- as a Christian parent.
I tried to sign my kid up for first Communion earlier this year, but we couldn't get enough other parents of children his age to make it a group. And apparently the pastor's own wife was resistant, so maybe I'm not falling down as badly as I think I am, at least in context.
In realistic terms, the story of the birth of Jesus is fraught with controversy. Biblical scholars dispute the Star. Modern theologians dispute the Virgin Birth. A variety of people apparently dispute the Flight to Egypt. And so on. And the arguments are in most cases pretty well considered. So we've verified what is, of course, entirely unverifiable. We know exactly what we don't know. History is an accumulation of words, words that seemed worth keeping and canonizing over the millennia, those sifted down through culture, those preserved by the elite.
If I choose, as a parent, as a teacher, to retell a story that withstood at least the tests of time if not of academia, am I not a participant in culture; just like someone who tells their child of Santa Claus? And if I choose to believe that my soul (a tough concept for a first-grader right there) is redeemed (another tough concept) in part by the birth of a baby in the Middle East, am I merely sentimental?
God has spoken to me with the cross; and on the cross a man died; and somewhere, that man must have been born. He came into the earth in blood and dust and he went out the same way -- everything else is perhaps a dramatic reconstruction, but that much I know for sure. Someday, perhaps, that's what I'll tell my son. Instead of the Christmas Story.