As a Christian educator, Christmas holds a special place in my heart. However, having worked in a public school setting for many years, I felt the tension that arises from the limitations placed on us by the law. Although Christmas is meant to be a joyous time, it's disheartening to be unable to share the joy of our faith during this festive season. We often feel compelled to conceal the true meaning of Christmas in secular celebrations.
Christmas has always been about Jesus for me. The gift of Jesus is why we celebrate Christmas. He is the reason we have hope, strength, peace, and joy in our hearts. He is the reason we will spend eternity with God the Father. It can be challenging to express the significance of this gift while respecting legal boundaries. Is it even possible?
Absolutely! It's a delicate balance, one that can only be achieved through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. To begin though, we must start with the baby in the manger and why He came. Christmas can be boiled down to one word: Love. These familiar verses never get old and remind us of what Christmas is all about.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3:16-17
God's incredible act of love toward all of us (the world) is something our feeble minds struggle to grasp. Why in the world does God love us? Because He is love (1 John 4:8). Why in the world would Jesus die for the ungodly? Because He is God, and God is love (Hebrews 1:3-4). I have come to the stark realization that I don’t have to understand God’s love to believe it and receive it.
Before moving on, I want to camp out here for a moment because God’s love will not flow through us if we don’t first embrace the fact (not the feeling) that we are deeply and unconditionally loved by our Creator. Let. That. Sink. In. It doesn’t matter how many times you fail. It doesn’t matter how unworthy you feel. God LOVES you! This is a fact penned by Paul in the Book of Romans. But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, emphasis mine)
It's important to take a moment to reflect on this question: Do you truly believe that God wants you to receive His love rather than earn it? (Ephesians 2:4-5) This concept is incredibly profound and fundamental to our spiritual well-being. I want to encourage you to take some time to meditate on this truth. The belief that we are unconditionally and boundlessly loved by God has the power to awaken something within us that yearns to be shared with others. This is how we convey the true meaning of Christmas.
One of my favorite verses is Romans 5:5 (AMP). Such hope [in God’s promises] never disappoints us, because God’s love has been abundantly poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
It is truly a wonderful privilege to accept the love that God has for us, which is made possible through Christ Jesus. This love gives us the power to be a channel of His love to those around us, both young and old. We have the honor of sharing this love with others because HIS love is IN all who believe! It’s no surprise that love is the first fruit of the Spirit that the Bible highlights (Galatians 5:22). Love truly is the foundation of all other virtues. As we approach the Christmas season, we can intentionally, legally, and compassionately reflect God's love to those around us, not only in our words but also in our actions. In this way, we share the true meaning of Christmas with others and help them experience it as well.
From a practical point of view, what does this look like in the daily grind of life, especially when it comes to our work in education? In 1 Corinthians 13, we learn some ways that we can express God’s love to others.
When we manage to stay calm and peaceful even when we feel like screaming, it's a sign of patience. Patience isn't a passive trait reserved for smooth-sailing times; rather, it is an active choice to demonstrate the transformative power of God's love in action. No one likes being provoked, annoyed, or insulted, but when we are, we get the chance to show God's love by demonstrating patience. Remember, the ability to be patient isn’t in our own strength but from the Spirit that God has poured into our hearts.
Reality Check: The next time that parent calls with one more question or complaint, thank God for the opportunity to stay calm and answer with patience!
It's important to remember that every person we encounter may be going through their own struggles and hardships. That's why it's crucial to choose to be kind, polite, and gentle with our students or colleagues, even when they may not deserve it. During challenging moments, we may not always have the strength to be compassionate and sympathetic on our own. However, with God's love flowing through us, we can express genuine kindness and empathy towards others.
Reality Check: The next time a colleague says something ugly to you, seek to understand and pick them up a Starbucks the next morning!
Have you ever considered the power of being willing to be interrupted? Every time we set aside our own agenda to meet the needs of another person, we are demonstrating the true essence of God's love. When we elevate others above ourselves, we are embodying the very core of selflessness. When we give instead of receive, we are expressing the love of Christ.
Reality Check: The next time a young teacher needs help with his/her lesson plans, happily offer to assist!
The Bible says love does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). I think this is an aspect of love many educators struggle with. There seem to be two extremes when it comes to justice with our students. Some educators desire to be liked so badly that they are willing to “wink” at bad behavior in hopes students will want to please them by behaving. On the other end of the spectrum are those who see discipline as an opportunity to pronounce judgment over students. Neither position is Biblical, and neither comes from a place of love.
God loves us enough that when we sin, the conviction of the Holy Spirit draws us back to Him. God’s desire is for us to learn, change, and grow to be more like Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). Although our students may not be believers, our desire should be for them to learn and grow from their mistakes. Just as God gives us grace in this process, we should also be instruments of grace when it comes to exercising justice. We should never demean students but always speak truth in love.
Reality Check: The next time a student is defiant, remain calm, restate the expectation, and administer pre-established consequences, always emphasizing your desire for them to be their best.
It's crucial to understand that the qualities of patience, kindness, sacrifice, and justice are all integral to expressing God's love. Even better, they are ALL legal! These Godly traits have the power to impact lives in a profound way. Additionally, there are many more ways we can confidently reflect God's love in our schools. Here are just a few examples, and I encourage you to add your own unique ideas to the list!
Place a poster in your room outlining how to treat others. (1 Corinthians 13)
Post a “thought” for the day that has a Biblical foundation. A Google search will reveal many quotes about kindness, peace, love, thoughtfulness, and compassion. Here is one you could start with.“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
Call a parent and brag about their child. Emphasize the kind qualities they are exhibiting.
Post a Bible verse on your desk to encourage yourself throughout the day.
Pray over your students daily.
Let’s not think of legal boundaries as barriers to sharing the real essence of Christmas. We can still spread the message of God's love through our words and deeds while respecting these limits. By accepting that we are unconditionally loved by God, we can become channels of His love to others. As we gear up for the Christmas season, let's make a conscious effort to reflect God's love to those around us with patience, kindness, sacrifice, and justice so they will experience the true meaning of Christmas. May the love of God, made possible through Christ Jesus, fill our hearts and spill over into the lives of those God has placed in our path.
Little children (believers, dear ones), let us not love [merely in theory] with word or with tongue [giving lip service to compassion], but in action and in truth [in practice and in sincerity, because practical acts of love are more than words]. 1 John 3:18 (AMP)