Walking into a class where practically none of the pupils know who Jesus is-was originally a shock. But why should we even expect the next generation to know anything of Jesus Christ when today's youth only hear his name when someone stubs their toe or witnesses something shocking enough to warrant using the name of our Lord and Saviour?
I remember the movie "Super Size Me" where all the children could tell who Ronald McDonald was but almost none recognised Jesus Christ. And sometimes it's easy to forget that this is who we're dealing with – a generation already brainwashed by years of television advertising who care very little for past events unless it's going to mean something personally to them. And these are the kids we're trying to reach by little stories, games and ready-made prayers; hoping some of it sinks in.
Particularly in this Christmas season it's amazing that most do not know about the sole person behind the Western tradition – the basis behind much of our Western culture itself. Of course many of the kids, even after at least a year of doing SRE in school still believed Christmas to be Santa's birthday and had no idea Jesus had anything to do with it whatsoever! But of course, when you're seven or eight and there's presents involved who really cares about why you're celebrating anything?
From generation then to generation now
In hindsight this really shouldn't have been much of a surprise to me based on my own experiences. When I was their age I wouldn't have known that Jesus was 'the Son of God' or even what that meant.
Regardless, I was given rosary beads and was taught to pray the Hail Mary and Our Father in succession which didn't exactly help me to make the connection that it had anything to do with some dude named Jesus. I went to Catholic school, had mass every week but still could not tell you why anyone would bother celebrating the birth of a Jewish Rabbi who died about 2000 years before or what it really had to do with presents and Santa.
And then when I was 21 I heard the gospel message for the first time and I was confused. I remember being like 'how come I'd never heard of this Jesus before?' and why was it some big secret? Sure, I'd done Religion in school but I'd never made the connection that Jesus died to reconcile us with God, that Jesus was the path to God and God himself… and I'd never made the connection that Jesus had anything to do with history. In short, I'd never realised that this Jesus dude was real.
No connection and we're missing the point
That's why a lot of these kids are hearing of Jesus without really hearing of Jesus. They're not seeing how a bunch of these vaguely familiar stories has any connection to life as they know it. They're learning history without touching on how Biblical history interconnects. And with Jesus just being a story-book figure they're not meeting the real Son of God where he's at.
When I taught the Christmas Story (which I prefer to call the Christmas HIStory) some bright students were like "I've heard of this" or even "I have a book about this at home" but hadn't made the connection that the Jesus in that manger is the same one we sing Christmas carols about.
While it may be common sense to us, this generation has lost almost all Christian grounding to be able to comprehend things like this. Even a decade ago when I was in school, Jesus was as mythical as Santa Claus and only popularised in guest spots on shows like South Park and the Simpsons, kind of as a gag character.
Nobody actually took that Jesus seriously, right? All that mass and school RE had never connected the dots for me.
Be bold, and don't expect schools to pick up the slack
And this younger generation now is even worse. Without SRE in schools a great number of them would not know Easter or Christmas has anything to do with that guy nailed to a tree that people called Christians claim to worship (for some odd reason). We need to help them connect.
You don't have to be an SRE teacher, any kids you come in contact with need to realise what this season is all about. Telling kids to read the Bible is confusing, unless it's one made especially for kids and especially to connect it to human history. Bringing them to church on Christmas morning is a cute little tradition but it's not enough to connect.
Share your prayer life but remember kids want to know not only that it works but why it works. You need to be able to answer the questions yourself so you can pass it on. What does it mean that Jesus is the Son of God? What does it mean that Jesus is our saviour? What proof can you offer in the lives of yourself and others that this Jesus biz actually works? How did you first discover that Jesus was real?
It isn't up to the schools to tell kids who Jesus is, and if they're lucky enough to do SRE at school what they learn about Jesus will depend entirely on the teacher. Don't leave it a secret for these kids to discover later in life like I did.
Try to make the connection for them here and now. That's the best Christmas gift that you can give.
Bridget Brenton has been researching apologetics, philosophy and the paranormal for years. You can check her apologetic effort out at 101arguments.com
Bridget Brenton's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/bridget-brenton.html