Christmas is Coming

Dr. Henry Selby, Headmaster All Saints' Episcopal School, Morristown, TN

Dr. Henry Selby, Headmaster All Saints’ Episcopal School, Morristown, TN

One really cannot avoid the fact that the best known Christian holiday is right around the corner.  Many non-Christians play into the holiday with apparent joy, anti-Christians argue about public language concerning the season (and decorations on government property), and Wall Street anticipates the results of retailers.  Christians of a liturgical tradition (like me) become positively apoplectic when our fellow believers start decorating too soon. “But it’s only Advent”,  we wail.  Christmas doesn’t even start until the 25th!”

Theologically-minded folks will lament that the truly central holiday for Christians, Easter, seems to take a back seat to all of the activity of the Christmas season.  Activists will sue a city government somewhere in America for breaching church and state precepts, and our schools will busily prepare themselves for walking the tightrope of celebrating in a way that doesn’t offend anyone.  Any smoldering consternation with these debates will be fueled to a roaring blaze by the so-called news anchors on any number of cable channels.  Worn out, we return to a relatively normal January.  The holiday tradition in America continues.

Holidays.  Few people seem to remember that the very word is a direct descendent of “holy day”, and sacred festivals are often a wonderful window into the world of culture and belief that defines us in special ways as fellow travelers on our various roads.  There is pageantry, color, perhaps music or unusual clothing, and an infinite variety of thought-provoking outward signs that say “there is something grander and more awesome happening here.”

Like most families, mine has its own holiday traditions.  Most of them mesh like expertly engineered cogs in the machine of our larger culture.  The lights, the tree, the special music at church, are conventional.  The odd bit here or there (we have sauerkraut with turkey at Christmas dinner) only serves to enhance the beautiful variety of the world in which we live.  When we are privileged to share the traditions from a very different culture the variety is underscored.  The outward signs are signals of what many of us call the inward grace.

A classroom in a school is the perfect place to appreciate these graces.  It is an ideal time for students to hear how each other’s families celebrate their holidays.  What an adventure!  The skillful teacher can have discussions that open doors to a much larger world.  Let’s not tiptoe into this season with the fear of offending.  Let’s barge right in and start appreciating what each has to share.

Source: Dr. Henry Selby, Headmaster All Saints' Episcopal School, Morristown, TN