I watch quite a bit of children’s television with my wife’s little cousin these days. I have to admit that, after all these years, Sesame Street is still my favorite. There’s just some timeless attraction I have to the likes of Ernie, Cookie Monster, and Grover. Now days, however, it seems as if there is absolutely no getting around every child’s new best friend, Elmo.
While Sesame Street has upheld what I think is a pretty wholesome program, I was a little concerned about something I observed as Dustin and I watched a holiday special of Elmo’s World. For those of you who have no clue as to what I’m talking about, Elmo’s World is a fictitious world that a fury red three-year-old monster creates with his crayons.
Within this world, he introduces and educates America’s children on subjects ranging anywhere from seasons and animals to the old west and the holidays. All of this is made fun by interviewing children and watching them as they demonstrate various activities such as getting their hair cut, making a snowman, or celebrating a holiday.
As is to be expected, I watched as Christmas was portrayed by images of lights, trees, gifts, and the jolly old man in red. When children were asked how they celebrate Christmas, there were a multitude of giddy faces and confusing stories, all actively narrated with their hands. Nowhere, however, was there mention of a baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, or even God.
Like I said, this has sadly come to be expected by the secular world we live in. Christmas has been transformed into a type of commercial, feel good season, with little remembrance of where it came from and to whom the joy is due. What usually remains as a distant feeling of misrepresentation slowly became personal as I watched what followed.
In addition to Christmas, Elmo also introduces the children to Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Ramadan. In truth, I find little wrong with teaching children about the many cultures and the holidays celebrated by those people. My problem, however, was with the information they presented for each of these. Hanukkah told the story of the Maccabaean revolt and a people who wanted to worship God in their own way. Ramadan also mentioned honoring the Muslim God, while Kwanzaa stresses the different moral values taught on each day of the celebration.
How is it that Christianity, which possesses the greatest reason for celebration, is constantly portrayed by candy and gifts, while all other holidays seem to find an underlying moral or religious conviction as their basis?
My first reaction was to go on the defensive, reminding myself of the bitterness our world has slowly taken up against Christianity. I placed the blame of our bad exposure on the world’s hatred of Christ and their apathy towards the truth. Surely there must be some elaborate conspiracy in place if even the content of Elmo’s World can be subverted by this antichristian mindset. But am I being fair?
I have to give the producers of Sesame Street a little bit of credit. It would be unfair if I didn’t mention their abridged and somewhat comical version of the manger scene. In fact, after the third or fourth time I watched the video, I realized that it was the children, and not Elmo, that bothered me the most. Is it possible that Sesame Street isn’t the one being subverted by this misconception of Christmas, but rather our own homes?
I guess I could argue that the producers probably edited out the hundreds of children who talked about God and Christ in their interviews. Maybe it took them a long time to find the five or six that only mentioned Santa, presents, and family. Or what if the producers had to screen thousands of kids before they found a couple that would mention the Muslim God or their Jewish tradition.
The absurdity behind an argument like this points to the reality affecting our Christian homes. Let me ask you a question. How do you celebrate Christmas? What do you talk about with your friends and your younger siblings? Where do these kids get their information? What’s the first thing that happens on Christmas morning at your house? Do you open presents or read the Christmas story in Luke, chapter two?
My assumption, by the testimony of these children on Elmo’s World, is that Santa is coming before Christ. How will we ever tell the world about the true meaning of Christmas if we don’t even tell our own children? How can I be upset that Elmo misrepresents the meaning of Christmas when we do it first?