‘Real meaning of Christmas lost on today’s children as nearly quarter believe 25th December is Simon Cowell’s birthday’. So read a Daily Mail headline a couple of years ago. A survey of 1,000 school children aged between five and seven years old revealed that 36 per cent didn’t know whose birthday we celebrate on December 25 – with over one in five believing the festivities were in aid of Simon Cowell’s birthday!
In addition, the research found 24 per cent of children believed that Brentwood, home to TOWIE stars favourite nightclub the Sugar Hut, was the location of Jesus’ birth. Another quarter thought Jesus was born at 10 Downing Street or Buckingham Palace, with only 28 per cent of those polled were able to name Bethlehem as the correct birth place.
Despite being a key ingredient in the nativity play children were also getting mixed up when it came to the three wise men, with over a third of children thinking that X Factor head judge Gary Barlow, TOWIE star Mark Wright and even Prince Charles were the generous men who brought gifts to the stable. And instead of following a star to find the stable, over 30 per cent of children thought that the three wise men heard about the birth of baby Jesus being born via Facebook!
I confess that I find it difficult to take this ‘research’ seriously – it just seems too far-fetched? Or is it? According to some other statistics I have come across recently, just 12% of adults know the full nativity story, and this drops to just 7% of 18-24s. Not surprisingly some 51 % of people now say that the birth of Jesus is irrelevant to their Christmas.
It doesn’t help, of course, that many primary schools and nurseries have replaced Nativity plays with something more secular. Children are no longer taught carols such as ‘Away in the manger’; instead they are taught ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer’. Christmas has truly become X-mas – a celebration of the unknown. To a large extent Christmas has been lost to the forces of secularism. Indeed, so much so that militant atheists are now arguing that there is nothing ‘Christian’ about Christmas. In the words of one atheist web-site: “Christians who insist that Jesus is the reason for the season and that Christ needs to be ‘put back’ into Christmas are seeking to assert their cultural superiority over everyone else. It’s yet one more example of attempts to reassert Christian privilege in a country that has moved on to religious pluralism”
As a grandparent I find this very worrying. Although I have every confidence in my children teaching their children the Christmas story, I want to make sure that all my grandchildren know whose birthday we celebrate. For this reason, when we buy our grandchildren Advent calendars, we always buy calendars that are distinctively Christian. These Christian Advent calendars may not be the cheapest on the market, but so what? This year we have also bought each family a Jesse tree kit, with activities for every day of Advent.
I believe that as Christians we need to ensure that Christ remains central to Christmas. For this reason when all our extended family comes together on Christmas Eve to give and receive presents, I always read the story of Jesus’ birth as found in Luke 2.1-7, and remind everybody that ‘Jesus is the reason for the season’. We then pray – and only then may presents be opened.
I want my family to know that Christmas makes no sense without Christ!