A recent Gallup poll reveals that more Americans will celebrate a secular Christmas than ever before. For many of us, Christmas is little more than an opportunity to play Santa with our kids. As a thirty-five-year-old, atheist homicide detective, my Christmas celebrations were largely focused on my children as well. But I eventually investigated the birth and life of Jesus and began to observe the holiday differently. Before you relegate Christmas to a childish celebration, consider the beliefs of the children with whom you’re celebrating.
They probably believe in God, even if you don’t.
Bruce Hood, a professor of developmental psychology at Bristol University, studied the beliefs of children in the United Kingdom and concluded that “children have a natural, intuitive way of reasoning that leads them to all kinds of supernatural beliefs about how the world works.”
Olivera Petrovich, an Oxford University psychologist, surveyed several international studies of children aged four to seven and found that the belief in God as a “creator” is “hardwired” in children and that “atheism is definitely an acquired position.”
Paul Bloom, a professor of psychology and director of the Mind and Development Lab at Yale University, writes, “The universal themes of religion are not learned… They are part of human nature… Creationism—and belief in God—is bred in the bone.”
Children are more likely to believe in God than not but can be persuaded otherwise over time. Gen Z teens, for example, are more skeptical than prior generations. So how can we leverage the Christmas season and the theistic predispositions of our children to learn and share the truth about Jesus? Jesus still matters, and he ought to matter to your kids, especially in this Christmas season. Click To Tweet
Start by asking two “whys” for every “what”.
As parents, we’ve all explained what is true to our children at one time or another. What do we believe about God? What are the claims of Christianity? What does the Bible teach about important moral issues? These simple propositions about the nature of God or the claims of Christianity may or may not ignite a fire in our young people.
That’s why I suggest taking two additional steps. For every what you offer the kids in your life, be sure to add two whys. First, why is the claim you’re making true? When teaching about the nature of God, for example, it’s tempting to default to “because the Bible says so” when a child asks us to defend the assertion. But take the time to explain the philosophical or evidential support beyond the teaching of the Bible. Kids want to know why we believe what we believe. If we want them to celebrate Jesus, we need to help them see that the Christian worldview is reasonable and evidentially true.
Next, help young people understand why any of this should matter to them. Once we’ve described what is true and why it’s supported by the evidence, take the time to explain why they should care in the first place. How does this truth impact their lives? How has it impacted the lives of humans historically? How does this truth guide, inspire or protect them?
There are great reasons to celebrate Jesus at Christmastime. There’s more than enough evidence to support the reliability of the New Testament account, and Jesus still matters, even in a world that rejects the claims of the Bible.
Jesus matters because he inspired more literature than any other person in history. More books, scripts, and screenplays have been written about Jesus than anyone else. His story has so captured the human imagination that “Christ figures” have been written into non-Christian literature.
He matters because he was the catalyst for the visual arts, inspiring painters and sculptors in every generation, genre, style, and nation. No one has affected the arts like Jesus.
He matters because he has been the topic of more songs, hymns, and symphonies than any other figure in history. Jesus’s followers innovated and changed the nature of music forever, and musicians and singers in every musical style continue to sing about him.
He matters because his teaching set the standard for moral reform and initiated a worldview that led to the flourishing of education. His followers established monasteries, cathedral schools, and ultimately universities that continue to educate people to this day.
He matters because he established a worldview that encouraged exploration and motivated his followers to investigate the natural revelation of God, resulting in an explosion of scientific discovery, the scientific revolution, and an unparalleled history of excellence in the sciences.
He matters because his influence on spiritual seekers and religious thinkers is so overwhelming that every major world religion either mentions or merges him into their theological system.
Jesus matters so much to the history of humans, that the truth about Jesus can be reconstructed from the books and writings of authors, the historic paintings, etchings, and sculptures of artists, the lyrics of classic and contemporary songwriters, the campus buildings and founding charters of the world’s most prestigious universities, the writings of the “science fathers,” and even the scriptures of non-Christian religions.
Jesus still matters, and he ought to matter to your kids, especially in this Christmas season. They already believe in God, now show them why they ought to celebrate Jesus.
(This article was originally written for Fox News and includes an excerpt from J. Warner’s new book, Person of Interest: Why Jesus Still Matters in a World That Rejects the Bible – www.PersonofInterestBook.com)