Your School...Singing With the Angels?


By Nate Hartman

October 16, 2009

When it comes to Christmas carols, I'm a traditionalist; I'll begin to listen to them only after Thanksgiving has passed.  I don't want to spoil the music by indulging in it too early, so I am determined to wait until the official Christmas season arrived.  Maybe this tiring day dulled my wits and senses...yes, I'll accept that rationale.  Nothing else could explain what happened next.

Having finished dinner and escaped to Wal-Mart to pick up a needed item (and, more truthfully, to chase a few moments' quiet after a long and somewhat discouraging day), I soon found myself choosing a CD for "driving music" during the less-than-10-minute trip.  And what, to my wondering eyes, should appear in my hands...but a Christmas CD?!?  What was I thinking?  I found myself needing some encouragement, though -- so I shrugged off my mind's objections and inserted the forbidden disk into the CD player.

As I made the trip to pick up a few odd items, my mind drifted to the thoughts that had filled my day (and which have filled my recent posts here in this blog) -- the struggles of Christian schools in a difficult financial time, and the challenge of doing the work that God has given us in the midst of trying to "stay afloat".  And then, into my consciousness, came the words of a Christmas carol that brought encouragement, tears, and a passionate new focus:

O ye beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh, rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.

Here these were, these oft-unheard words from the third stanza of "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" -- and my evening did, indeed, clear.  What were the words of the angels' song?  They were these -- "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests" (Luke 2:14).  And with those words, history changed; life would never be the same, and our very being is filled with hope and meaning.  At the end of a trying and confusing day, I was reminded that I have a purpose -- we have a purpose -- that trumps the difficulties of life.

Not to be outdone, another carol followed and reinforced my new line of thought:

O holy night!  The stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
'Til He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees!  Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born...

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love, and His gospel is peace.
Chains He shall break, for the slave is our brother,
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we;
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord!  Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

With these songs I realized that recent challenges and stresses had caused me to lose the focus to which I've been called, the only thing that gives my life and work meaning above the hum of sin and self -- the joy of declaring God's power, glory, and wonderful gift of freedom!  Yes, here I was in the middle of October, listening to Christmas music (I know, I still can't believe it) -- and finding the early reminder of God's gift to be just what I needed.  God knows our needs, and He has provided for them.  In the midst of the pain and difficulty that He promised we'd face in our life and work, He reminds us that our focus should not be on our trials and weaknesses.  In that brokenness we should find the source of our celebration -- the truth that sorrow and death have been defeated -- and a renewed passion to make that message the central purpose of our lives and work!

So tonight I ask all of you -- administrators and teachers, athletic directors and coaches, parents and grandparents -- to consider that our calling demands more than just a persistence in plodding along.  Our Savior was not pierced for our transgressions in order that we could contiinue to live in frustration and discouragement.  I know that our culture is saturated with blindness and chases the dark, and I know that our passions and our children and our schools struggle to stay afloat in the midst of it all.  I know that it's tough to maintain focus in the center of the chaos, but tonight I was reminded...

We need to be sharing the song of the angels.

We need to be -- in everything we do -- declaring that peace has come to the earth.  Our message needs to be different that the droning, meaningless march of the culture around us.  My question to you, Christian schools, is this...How is your school sharing that message?  How are you impacting the lives of your students?  How are you ministering to your families?  How are you communicating this joyous message to your community?  Are your athletic teams competing in such a way that others don't just see a difference -- but know what that difference is?  Is your school committed to doing more than just teaching your students about God...Are you teaching them that knowing Christ means sharing that truth with others?  We need to sing these sweet hymns of gratitude and proclaim our God's glory in the midst of a broken culture that needs Him so deeply -- and we need to get serious about doing so!

If your school is passionate about this purpose, I hope you'll contact us and let us know.  It's an encouragement to hear about the unity of Christian schools, as we together pursue the purpose that God has given us.  We'd love to tell you more about some of the ways we'd like to help and partner with your school in impacting the lives of your students, families, and communities.  And if you're not yet a member school of NCSAA, please consider joining.  We need to be together to strengthen the work of Christian schools in this challenging time.  We look forward to hearing from you!

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