​Do Your Kids 'Get' Christmas?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

“I remember the first children’s Bible story books we were given when my kids were born, that teach the timeless lessons:  Adam and Eve disobeyed God and messed everything up, so you should obey your mom and dad.  Noah was the best man of his time, so God saved him.  Zacchaeus got to have Jesus over for dinner because, you know, God loves small people too.

These children’s Bibles told great stories about heroic men and women who did what God said and everything worked out for them.  And if you do what God says, then everything will work out for you too.  Right?

That’s what many kids get from well-intentioned Christian teachers, DVDs and Sunday school curriculum.  The problem is, it’s not the story of Scripture.  It’s more like what sociologist Christian Smith called “moralistic therapeutic deism,” or the idea that Christianity can be summed up as “God wants you to try a little harder to do a little better .... just like those great people in the Bible.”

But when you read the Bible you see just how mistaken this view is.  The Bible is a book filled with accounts of broken, sinful, and sometimes stubborn people whom God still chose to use in His redemption plan.  It’s about how all of history ultimately leads up to Jesus Christ, God the Word who became flesh, lived among us, and began the re-creation of all things.

I was excited recently to interview two amazing children’s writers, Sally Lloyd Jones, author of “The Jesus Storybook Bible,” and Phil Vischer, creator of DVD series “What’s in the Bible?” (and "Veggie Tales”).  These two have produced a goldmine of biblical teaching for children.

Jones says she grew up in a Christian home but viewed the Bible as a rule book and full of moral heroes to imitate in order to earn God’s love.  The inspiration for her ‘Jesus Storybook Bible’ ($20 at Manna Bookstore) came when she realized she’d misunderstood Scripture most of her life.

“The Bible is most of all a story,” she said, “of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them ... and if I, as a child growing up in a Christian home ... missed the whole point of what the Bible was about, I wondered how many other children were missing it.”

That’s what her children’s books are designed to prevent.  She wants children not to look at Scripture as a collection of moral nuggets but as a unified epic leading to the manger of Jesus Christ, where the only solution to sin and brokenness is found.

Phil Vischer’s journey covered much of the same ground and he admits the message in many “Veggie Tales” wasn’t fully ripe Christianity.  “You can say ‘hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so.’  But that isn’t Christianity.”

In his children’s puppet series “What’s in the Bible?” (in St Albans Library or $20 each from Manna), children learn about the unity of Scripture; how each piece fits together to form the great story about Jesus Christ, who came to save us from trying to please God ourselves.

And in the dvd ‘Why do they call it Christmas?’” ($20 at Manna) children can discover the origins of some of our most beloved Christian traditions, and how they each point back to the ‘upside down’ story we celebrate at this time of year:  "That the King of the Universe became a child, to rewrite our story, and make us all His children.”

A Breakpoint commentary by John Stonestreet on 9.12.14.