Christmas seems to start earlier and earlier every year – with gifts appearing in supermarkets in October, neighbours turning on their Christmas lights as soon as the clocks go back (yes, mine really do!) and the eagerly awaited John Lewis Christmas advert on screens almost six weeks before the big day.

I hadn’t realised until recently that many families are already booking to visit Santa in his local grotto – to be honest, I hadn’t even realised that you could book to visit Santa at all! When I was a child, you just turned up, joined a queue, did the Santa thing and came away with a little gift – which I was never allowed to open until Christmas Day anyway! 

God Became Like Me

The new book, 'God Became Like Me?', can be ordered for free via Scripture Union. PICTURE: Supplied. 

I do remember the moment, though, when I realised that Santa wasn’t real – a little boy before me in the grotto queue managed to remove Santa’s hat, hair and beard in one fell swoop as he climbed up onto Santa’s knee. The illusion was shattered as I immediately recognised the school caretaker, who became somewhat confused as the children in the queue began to cry...

"Christmas is about God giving us everything, not because we earned it by behaving well, but because He is love. And that’s why I’m so grateful that, through my role with Scripture Union, I’m able to share the real truth of Christmas with thousands of children this year."

According to a recent study commissioned by confectioners Thorntons, three in four parents tell white lies over the festive period just to keep the magic of Christmas alive – not only insisting that Santa is real, but also that he keeps a list of good and bad children so that he can decide who gets presents (or lumps of coal) on Christmas Eve.

To me, there seems to be something a little sinister about this particular white lie – probably because it feels a lot like a threat, used to help parents contain the chaos of the season: ‘Behave, or you’ll get nothing!’

I’m not sure there is anything less true about Christmas – the real Christmas, that is. Christmas is about God giving us everything, not because we earned it by behaving well, but because He is love.

And that’s why I’m so grateful that, through my role with Scripture Union, I’m able to share the real truth of Christmas with thousands of children this year.

The idea behind God Became Like Me? was born almost a year ago as I took some time out, while on a Scripture Union creative retreat, to reflect on the health and well-being of children in the UK. What became apparent quite quickly was that having a healthy sense of self-esteem and self-worth was critical for enabling children to develop into well-balanced, fulfilled and resilient young people.

If children grow up feeling that their value is defined by how they behave, their sense of self-worth will be low, because they will never live up to the standards imposed upon them. But if children see that their value is in fact defined by who they are, not what they do, their self-perception can be transformed. 

For most children, the threat of the lump of coal never becomes reality (although I’m all too aware that, for some, it might), but the underlying message remains: be good, and get rewarded, be bad and get punished. 

Yet I believe that whether they are good, bad or somewhere in between, every child (and adult!) is special, precious and important to God. And it was these three little words that formed the basis for the God Became Like Me? story.

At this time of year, it’s so easy for us to focus on retelling the Christmas story to children and young people, especially those who have never heard it before. But, for me, retelling the story without revealing the ‘why’ behind it all reduces the likelihood that children will connect with it on a personal level. 

Gemma Willis2

Gemma Willis

 

"Imagine a generation of children who grow up knowing who they are in Jesus, knowing they are valued, loved and accepted, knowing that no matter what life throws at them they will never face it alone, because Jesus is at their side. Imagine if children and young people discovered Christmas to be a time to celebrate, not how good (or not!) they have been, but just how good God is…"

When we just retell the Christmas story, it’s easy to hold it at arms’ length – it is something that is external to our person. But when we explore the ‘why’ behind the story, we suddenly find ourselves to be an integral part of it. 

God became like us, because He wants each and every one of us to know, and experience, that we are special, precious and important to him. God became like us because He wants us all to see that He is special, precious and important too.

Imagine a generation of children who grow up knowing who they are in Jesus, knowing they are valued, loved and accepted, knowing that no matter what life throws at them they will never face it alone, because Jesus is at their side. Imagine if children and young people discovered Christmas to be a time to celebrate, not how good (or not!) they have been, but just how good God is…

We hope that, this Christmas, God Became Like Me? will help children and young people connect with the story in their own unique way. Alongside the words and colourful illustrations, the book includes several interactive journal pages that encourage children to pause and reflect on what the story means for them, writing, drawing or colouring as they do so.

As Scripture Union begins the distribution of 170,000 copies of God Became Like Me? please join me in praying for the children and young people who will receive them; that they will glimpse the timeless truth of the Christmas story and realise their place within it. 

Gemma Willis, a content innovator at Scripture Union England and Wales, is the author of God Became Like Me?.