The big idea behind this activity is to shock and surprise your children by ruining Christmas. Okay, that’s not the final goal. What we want to do is to help our kids break out of the glut of artificial emotion tied to the Christmas season and get a better understanding of how the gift of Jesus was a gift of grace—something none of us deserved.
Part of what we’re up to with students, especially, is to subvert their expectations to get them to look at truth from new angles. By the time they reach the teens, students can begin to lose interest in the trappings of the Christmas season. The music, decorations, and family traditions begin to feel like “little kid” activities they’re still forced to participate in.
That’s a normal developmental stage. The downside is that students may also begin to think themselves too sophisticated for the gift of Jesus, as well. This activity might help them to think of Him as more than just the baby in the manger.
Announce to your family that you’re going to set aside one evening (or morning or afternoon) to celebrate Mean Christmas. Decorate the room in black baloons and grey crepe paper. Put up a skull-and-cross bones poster. Put on some angry (or just annoying) background music. Get creative. Note: The idea isn’t to make the decor spooky or Haloweeny—just kind of “mean” or maybe a little piratey.
After the decorations are up, explain that your first activity will be to make Mean Christmas cards for each other. Be sure to emphasize that this is for fun. Ask everyone not to be seriously hurtful. Cards can be made out of whatever paper you have and might say things like, “Have a lousy holiday!” or “You can’t join my reindeer games!” The uglier they are, the better
Next, it’s time for the gift exchange. Explain that Mean Christmas is all about taking, not giving. Ask every member of the family to make a list of one thing they’d like to take from each of the other members of the family for their own. Talk about family and friends who have nice things you could take on Mean Christmas eve.
Finally, ask everyone to pause for a moment of quiet reflection and think about some of the meanest things they’ve done this last year. Turn up the annoying music as you all ponder this. Maybe you could hold hands.
When the time is right, ask your family to gather around and listen as you read a passage from the Bible about Mean Christmas. Tell them the Apostle Paul is writing about how humans live without God. It’s the ultimate “naughty list.”
“Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”
Every day without God is Mean Christmas. Every one is a sinner. We’re all born with meanness in our hearts. It’s normal for human to take and hurt and be mean. We even treat God meanly. That’s just who we are. God has every right to be mean right back and squash us.
Here’s what God did instead:
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. . . . Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:8-11, 14)
He didn’t squash us to stop us from being mean. He gave us a gift. It doesn’t make any sense, but He gave us a huge good gift. The gift of His only Son to live here on earth for a while and one day be squashed by God to punish all the mean sin we’ve ever done. God gave us chance to trust in Jesus and be with Him forever in His home where there will never be any meanness.
Christmas—not the Mean kind—is when we tell Him, “Thanks for giving us a good gift instead of squashing us for being mean. You must really love us. We love you, too!”
End your Mean Christmas together by undecorating your mean room and putting on some real Christmas music.