Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Celebrating Christmas

It is difficult for me to understand how the celebration of the birth of Jesus can be turned into simply a "holiday season" without some kind of reference to the origin of the holiday and its traditions.  After all, even the word "holiday" is a shortened version of "Holy Day," and in spite of the fact that the date and season are not necessarily consistent with the time of the actual event, the purpose of the celebration is pretty clear. 

So at Portersville Christian School, we celebrate Christmas. 

We teach our students that their salvation from sin is possible because God allowed Jesus to come, live among us, teach and lead us by his example, and then become the sacrifice required to atone for the sin that separates us from God.  The way we have come around to celebrating this event is complicated.  We know that it probably didn't occur on December 25, and that over time, human tradition has distracted from the message, pulling out the significance of Jesus.  There's nothing wrong with generosity in giving, or emphasizing peace on earth, though sometimes sentiment replaces sincerity even in those things.  But those are side issues, compared with the true meaning and purpose of the celebration of Christ's birth.

We can get excited about a lot of things that don't really mean very much.  As kids, the thought of what presents we might get was far more exciting than thinking about our spiritual connection to God made possible by Jesus.  So one of the things we want to do here at school is to emphasize to our students the importance of celebrating the coming of our salvation.  We do some decorating, and we do some celebrating, but we leave out some of the aspects of Christmas that have a tendency to focus on ourselves, and we put the emphasis on Jesus. When you see students, especially younger ones, begin to show an understanding of what Christmas is all about by actually putting the spiritual emphasis above their excitement over presents and parties, you know they're getting it. 

Our students will gather together on Wednesday, December 17 in the gym for a school-wide Christmas celebration, led by our faculty.  Parents and friends are welcome and invited to join us at 8:30, if you are able. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

ACSI Student Leadership Conference: Well Worth the Time and Effort

Ten of our students, accompanied by two faculty and the administrator, participated in the 2015 ACSI Student Leadership Conference in Arlington, Virginia November 23-25.  It was time well spent. 

Each year, there's a focus toward which the conference leaders direct the sessions for the students.  Last year, it was toward career and calling, this year the focus was on relationships, beginning with the most important one with God through Jesus Christ.  Conference speakers made it clear that once that relationship is where it needs to be, it becomes possible to have other healthy, productive relationships. 

There are a couple of things about this conference that elevate its importance for our students and their participation in it.  One is the willingness of the conference speakers to be open and honest with the students.  Most of them realize that the room they are addressing is full of high school students drawn from the leadership of the Christian schools they attend, and that they are capable of handling the subject matter in a mature way.  There's not a lot of theoretical conversation, or skipping past problems to get to the happy ending.  Speakers don't "soft petal" their presentation, most of them shared out of their own experience, including their failures and disappointments, not concluding with "it will all work out in the end" but by showing students how to handle those things in a mature manner, and avoid defeat. 

I'm also impressed with the fact that the conference doesn't avoid topics that aren't necessarily neat or politically correct.  Racial issues were part of the discussion, a particularly well-done presentation by two speakers who related their personal experience within the context of the Christian community in which they were raised, and in which they still participate.  Both brought a unique perspective to the discussion.  Both had plenty of reason to accept defeat and walk away, but instead, they committed to overcome and work through it, and along the way help others deal with discouragement and disappointment. 

This conference, though it is scheduled in a time block of sessions running from Sunday evening to Tuesday morning, with Monday afternoon set aside for visiting the Nation's capital city, also incorporates worship into the schedule.  This gives students the opportunity to have some reflection and commitment time and the response to that is visible among the students. 

The effectiveness of the message here is in the way it is presented.  It's not "you should never have any problems if you're a good Christian," but "being a Christian is the best way to develop the maturity and strength you need to handle the problems that a real world will bring your way."  We live in a fallen, not a perfect, world, and we are prone to fall as well.  But a fall shouldn't beat us.  I'm grateful that a group of potential student leaders from Christian schools, including ours, have an opportunity to receive that message.