Christmas is a wonderful time to gather together as a family, read a few story books, and tell stories. We are story driven people, and even though we spend less and less time together, our lives still revolve around stories.
We watch stories on streaming services, we tell the story of our life on our social media pages, and of course we tell each other our stories when we catch up. But what stories are we telling our children?
The Bible is a collection of stories, and when the people of Israel lived through their history before the scribal tradition began, they kept the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob alive by telling their children the stories.
Deuteronomy 6 lays out God’s instructions to the Israelites about how to live as people who just left Egypt. After telling them to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength, Moses goes on to write, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk to them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
What stories are we telling our children?
On February 10 I love to tell my kids how I met their dad. I was travelling the world and was in Geneva, Switzerland for two weeks. We sat across the room from each other at a bible study, and that’s how we met. We’ve been married for over 10 years. It’s a great story.
I also tell my kids about how my parents and I, when I was almost two, had to hide in our neighbour’s house in Sri Lanka for three days because of racial riots in Colombo. This is a tragic story, one that does not fit our comfortable, safe life in Melbourne. But I tell them these stories, the good and the bad, because it gives my kids a frame, a sense of history, and hopefully an understanding of where they’ve come from.
In both these stories, they hear the familiar strains of God’s faithful love, bringing people together, caring for his children, and protecting them.
I think one of the mistakes we make is that we think the only stories kids pick up are the ones we formally tell them, but the truth is they pick up our stories all the time.
When we say, “I hate December, there’s so much going on with everything ending,” we tell a story of stress and overwhelm. When we talk about the small space in our house to host a gathering or our inability to cook, we tell the story of scarcity and lack.
We have an opportunity to tell our children true stories, ones that are infused with reality and grace, stories that describe reality. Our kids see it anyway, but framing the reality with hope.
Our house is small, but we will host anyway because we have a house and we can.
I’m not the best cook, but what matters here is that we can be together and I can try my best.
Perhaps this is the year to start a story telling tradition in your home, one that involves you telling the good and the hard ones, listening to yourself to hear for the unspoken story behind some of your words, and retelling those.
Maybe you’ve got memories from Christmases past of Christmas presents that meant something or a family tradition - isn’t it time you told your children those stories too? This is how we keep a sense of family history, tradition, and faith alive. These are the stories that shape the people they become.