It is Christmas time again and like an old, drafty but proud house this ancient institution tries its best to keep the metaphysical out of this august holiday. No Christmas music, no Christmas decorations. Nothing that remotely resembles the real reason for the season. Oh a jolly St. Nick or an effeminate reindeer is allowed. Of course. But no Baby Jesus. Of course.
But it canâ€™t be stopped. Like a cold front transversing the land, the wind blows slowly, ever so slowly, but consistently against this old house, this public school. More and more wind comes through the old windows, created to keep out more overt but less ubiquitous intrudersâ€”like rain and snow. But the wind, the spirit, continues to blow. Until it is at gale force and nothing can stop it. Nothing. A smile on a childâ€™s face as he hears a good word. A faint echo of â€œHark the Herald Angels Singâ€Â waffles through the hall. A subversive Christian slips and says, â€œMerry Christmas!â€
What is to be done? The doors are taped, the windows caulked, but it is to no avail. The spirit still comes. Christmas comes. Nothing can stop it. Until one day we all pause and smile and remember, even in this old house, even in this old godless place, called public education, we cannot help ourselvesâ€”we greet each other with â€œMerry Christmas!â€Â Tentatively at first, and then with gusto. It is as if the Christ child is born anew into our hearts. Or rather the child in us is reborn. That Christmas memory, candlelight church service, the memory of Luke 2 competes with and then replaces the dark hopelessness of our age. And it wins. It always wins.
Like Deborah in Judges 5 we sign our songs of joy and of hope in a hopeless land. We dance, and praise the Lord together. And we experience life anew.
There are days when I wonder what happened to meâ€”the presumptuous saint who saw himself influencing milllions, making millions, changing worlds and making new ones. In Jesus name. But here I am, a lowly English teacher in a public school this Christmas season. I am exiled from home and family, living in a little garage apartment. But as I examine the spectacle unfolding around me, I give God thanks. I thank him for the wind. Oh, no, it is more than a wind. It is storm!
I thank my Father for the storm that Jesus Christ our Lord brings, even to this secular place. I thank Him for Angelique, and Debbie, and Vincent. I thank him for Mary and Stephen. The Christian thinker Henri Nouwen, at the end of this life, observed that Godâ€™s touch makes all things â€œbeloved.â€Â He has touched the unsaved and the saved alike in this old institution. Yes He has touched my heart again. And in the backwaters of life I hold my candle high and I thank God for this time, this place, these people. And I call them, and I call myself, beloved. Merry Christmas!