The weeks leading up to the Christmas vacation are always hectic but extremely enjoyable. I’m in schools for Advent celebrations, Christmas concerts and far too many turkey dinners! It is heartwarming to see so many children (and staff) excited about this season. I recognize and can appreciate the tiredness in the adults’ eyes knowing full well that they are looking forward to some well deserved rest and relaxation over the holiday.
Christmas is suppose to be a time of joy! It is intended to be a time of peace. It is a time when we prepare and ultimately celebrate the coming of the Messiah. Christmas is to be spent with our families in homes filled with love and laughter. The smells of the season should waffle through our homes. The sights of the season should be reflective in our eyes. Our Christmas traditions are anticipated with great excitement by young and old alike. Yes…Christmas is suppose to be a time to look forward to, a time of joy!
Yet, I know that Christmas also brings about many fears and negative feelings. Many of our children live in extreme poverty and food will be scarce during the holiday season. Their only turkey dinner is the one that is provided at the school. Many of our children go home to fractured families and unhealthy living conditions. The school with its warm and welcoming environment is often replaced by a dull and unloving atmosphere. For these children, Christmas is not a joyous event. It is filled with anxiety! They are leaving a place we call school that protects and nurtures, accepts and acknowledges, cares and loves. Holidays for them is leaving their regular routine and safe haven!
And Christmas this year will be very different for those families impacted by the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty beautiful 6 and 7 year old students and seven adults ruthlessly gunned down. Their presents under the tree will not be unwrapped! There will be no more Christmas concerts, no more birthdays, no graduations or weddings! Instead anger, heartache and despair remain. As I watched the news coverage this weekend, it was impossible for me and I’m sure most of us not to feel the same.
This is where we turn to our faith. We pray for God’s comforting hands, for peace and we pray for hope. We visit or phone our parents, hug our children a little longer and tighter and say “I love you” to our spouse. We acknowledge, and are grateful for our many gifts and talents and we share them unselfishly, with our families, our friends and our students. We provide hope to the downtrodden, the poor, the isolated and the sick. We bring back joy by giving gifts of the heart.
As we enter our last week of school, I ask that you pray for all those in need in your school community and around the world. I ask that you continue to be a beacon of hope and a ray of light for our students, their families and each other. I am thankful for the work that you do and the vocation you have chosen. And I ask for God’s blessing on you and your family during this Christmas season. May you experience God’s love, the peace of Christ, the gift of the Holy Spirit and much Christmas joy!