The energy was high today as students across our schools sang Christmas carols in unison. Classrooms were swept of crushed peppermint candy cane and sugar cookie crumbs after wiping down counters from custard and eggnog spills. Twinkle lights were shut off and packaged gifts gathered into piles as students, parents, and teachers alike waved and wished “Merry Christmas!” to one another. Freezing rain was falling, but spirits were high as the school semester closed and Christmas holiday officially kicked off. The celebrations have just begun.
It has been a long month. During the season of Christmas anticipation and Advent, students become more and more restless in expectation of the coming break from classes. What I love about my school is that while it would be easy to employ desperate measures to entertain fidgeting students, or to give in to the temptation to “check out” and put aside assignments, our hallways were humming during the weeks before Christmas holiday with the familiar routine: readings and recitations, discussion about big ideas, the scribbling of pencil on paper, the study of flashcards in preparation for exams.
Yet if you were to step in from the fringes on the outside into the classrooms themselves, you would observe Advent and Christmas tidings seeping in subtly and intentionally. My students came into class three times a week and took their seats to continue transcribing Luke 2 into their composition books, the account of the Messiah’s birth, as Handel’s Messiah and O Holy Night played quietly in the background. They memorized and dramatically recited Sir Walter Scott’s famous poem, “Breathes There the Man with Soul So Dead” about the “wretch, concentered all in self” that so perfectly describes Ebeneezer Scrooge before his miraculous transformation. Every morning they would take turns reading Charles Dickens’ rich prose, dripping with irony, personification, and imagery. Or they would ask me to read it to them, softening and slowing my voice as I read about the fog and ruddy candlelight, quickening with fright at the ghostly entrance of the unforgettable Marley. At eleven and twelve years of age, they are taking in the spirit of restful contemplation while the world around them is bustling in quick-paced fashion.
Over the last few weeks, treats and gifts were selected and packaged with care into postal boxes for our adopted troops spending their Christmas in Afghanistan. Instruments were tuned and harnessed into submission as these young masters transfixed their listeners with carols and hymns to celebrate Incarnation. As he sent us off today, our headmaster reminded us the breathtaking reality that Our Lord is celebrated all over the Earth this week. It was a remarkably stirring thought.
I have a natural tendency to feel guilty about celebrating excessively, and that it is better to do all things in moderation, or even conservatively. Perhaps this is the residue and remembrance of years in which we had to make do with much less, and I still feel the need to celebrate conservatively in order to be “responsible”, because those years are not long-distant. I’ve felt the deep desire of wanting Advent brings in my gut, of a difficult and pain-filled world at my doorstep and in my own life in very difficult ways. Advent has been lived for the better part of my adult years while I wait for the promise that all things will be made new again. But I was reminded this week (on Twitter of all things) to celebrate-–and then celebrate some more.
I was reminded in the character of Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, who so eloquently shares:
“There are many things from which I might have derived good by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew, “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas-time, when it has come round-apart from… the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that-as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”- A Christmas Carol, Stave I
Threfore, celebrate all of the things.
Celebrate with warm and colored lights, fragrant trees, roaring fires, and exuberant, hearty feasts.
Celebrate with great laughter, loud and rousing games, and with dear, close family.
Celebrate with toasts to newness and hope and peace.
Celebrate with colorful packages and abundant gifts covered in bows all spilling out of stockings, and by tucking children deep into their Christmas Eve covers with whispers about the morning that awaits.
Celebrate with traditions and movies and wishes for crisp, pure snow.
Celebrate the coming Messiah in extravagance for the King of Kings, who is Love that came down.
Glory to the newborn King!
“And God Bless Us, Everyone”- CD