Posted by: angelnorman | December 14, 2008


This Christmas season, I’ve been struggling with teaching Nicholas about the true meaning of Christmas versus the fun way we celebrate it. While I’ve had lots of talks with him about the love of Christ Jesus, I’ve had nothing concrete to help drive my points home. He’s learned about Christ the King, born on Christmas day, the reason we celebrate anything at all… if not from me, then he’s heard it all at school. He knows the story, but when it comes down to it, Santa is still what he talks most about. We’ve been doing a lot of talking about our Christian beliefs behind the holiday and offering no further proof of our story, a fact which has been bothering me more and more the closer we get to Christmas. I mean, I don’t even have my nativity out this year for him to play with, for us to discuss (it’s an incomplete set thanks to previous years of discussion and play). So here we are, 10 days till Christmas Eve and I’d yet to do anything Christ-related in my celebrations until today.

And what a wonderful day it’s been. (Which is to be expected when you bring yourself back to the simple truths in life, back to the heart of your faith.)

First, we went to watch my mother sing at her church. Her choir was conducting the service today with praise songs, all Christmasy, and I had a really lovely time listening and singing along to the music. About two songs in, Nicholas got bored and so we opted to put him in the “childcare”, where he scribbled a few lines of yellow crayon on a Baby Jesus print-out. Silly non-artsy kid! Anyways, I’m not sure what he learned there but I felt really badly about him missing the singing and merriment, even if it did bore him. I wanted him to be there with us so that we could do something to honor our Savior as a family this Christmas, before all the hustle and bustle of the season takes place.

After church we went to lunch with my mom and sister, and from there we went to the Bethlehem Marketplace put on by Southeast Baptist in Murfreesboro. All the way to the church, we discussed what he might see there, but I don’t think anything really could have prepared Nick for it. He was blown away by the sights, sounds, and smells of “Bethlehem”. We entered the tented area, and were greeted by a shepherd telling us of what happened to him the night before as he was watching his sheep in the field. “Gather round,” he called to us. “For I have some really good news!” From there, we signed in, or *ahem* registered according to the decree of Caesar, then were greeted by the the smell of fresh pine and the faces of donkey sellers calling out prices.. on to merchants offering up camels for travelling, dried grapes, fresh cheese, handmade breads, pomegranates, and more. All the while, people were being arrested by the Roman soldiers, who never smiled (but would stare you down– creepy! I felt guilty and I didn’t even do anything), for speaking of the fulfillment of God’s word. It was really awesome to take in everything.

Once, a prisoner in the cell cried out that the Baby born “last night” was the Messiah and a Roman soldier came running at him from clear across the “room” just to bang on his cell and tell him to hush basically. Here was Nicholas’s face when he watched all of that take place…

Yeah. And he actually did ask afterwards if “those guys” were bad guys.

But finally we made our way past the soldiers, past the “winemakers” squishing their barrels of grapes, the children playing, the innkeepers yelling about no vacancies, and the fishermen selling “the freshest fish in all of Bethlehem” to the stables. There we saw pettable donkeys, lazy sheep, and, pushed into a corner of the stable, the Holy Family.

Nicholas stopped right in front of them and stared down at the “Baby Jesus”, who yawned at us from his manger. Nick’s little gaze was locked onto the baby, and he stood very still as if he was almost unable to move. I bent down beside him and asked if he was okay. He didn’t look at me, and he wouldn’t budge. He just stood there, staring at the baby as if trying to process everything we’ve ever discussed, everything he learned at school, and everything he knew in his heart. It moved me to shed a couple of tears as I guided him out of the tent, telling him that we had to share Jesus with everyone else.

The very last thing we saw as we exited and received our cross ornament was a large wooden cross. Nicholas stopped again in front of it and looked up at Mike. “Daddy,” he asked. “Where’s the man on the cross? Where is the man that is supposed to be there?” Mike explained that the cross is merely a symbol, that it’s not the real cross on which Jesus died, and that even if it was, Jesus is in Heaven with God the Father. Nicholas said, “You mean Baby Jesus? Did he get sick and die?”

Poor kid. So much to take in at such a young age!

So on the way home, we told Nick everything we knew about Jesus that we thought he should know. We told him about how Jesus was a child, and how when he grew up, he did wonderful things and taught everyone about God’s love and mercy. We told him about those Roman soldiers and how they arrested Jesus when he was still healthy and young, just a little older than Daddy we said. We told him about Jesus’s sacrifice and how Jesus’s body didn’t stay in the ground because he was too awesome to die, so now he lives in Heaven and watches over us.

He finally seemed to understand what we’ve been saying all this time- what a gift Jesus was and IS to this world, what we honor as we come together with our families and friends to enjoy the holidays in our various ways… what we uphold as we give gifts to one another, etc. At least he took great interest in it, discussing in great detail the “Three Kings” and the “Shepherds and lambs”. (He is totally obsessed with the wisemen and the presents. “Presents like ours!” he said to me this morning.) I was so glad to see him consider the Christ in Christmas. For once I heard nothing about Santa and elves making toys or any of that other nonsensical stuff that we tell Nick because it’s “fun”. I was so happy to have had the opportunity to share that with my son. And I owe it all to Southeast Baptist church for giving my non-churchgoing family something to enjoy this Christmas season that speaks to our faith, a faith that is the basis of Christmas for us.

I just feel so much better about the holidays now; knowing that I’ve done something more to connect Christ with Christmas for my child will certainly make me feel less guilty when my son’s focus returns to toys and Santa. And it most certainly will return there, as he is, after all, a child. Ha. But for now, I am proud of my boy for being interested in our faith, and for trying to understand what and more importantly, whom we celebrate on Christmas. I FINALLY feel good about this Christmas– the one centered around my precious Jesus Christ.

All in all, we Normans had a great day filled with lots of love, lots of fellowship, and most of all, lots of praising and thanking God. It was a little like heaven on earth, really. My only wish is that there were more family-oriented faith-based Christmas activities to do in my area and that every Christmas, we could spend more of our time celebrating Christ and less of our time caught up in the busy-ness of the season. It’s such a shame that this was our one and only day for that sort of thing.

But what a great day it was! I certainly don’t regret a single moment of it.

Props to my mom’s choir for the amazing performance they gave today, too.

A few more pics of Bethlehem Marketplace here.



  1. How awesome totally AWESOME this was for me to read. It really touched my heart. I like my little budz would stand in Awe at our Lord Jesus Christ myself. I would love so much to go next year and I am going to try to make it a point to go.
    I love you and thanks for coming to my Christmas musical it meant a lot to me.

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