Stephanie Carlsen: CHRISTmas: Remembering the Reason for the Season

Stephanie Carlsen, 11-13, La Salle Academy, New York, NY

I love Christmas. It’s one of my favorite seasons because I get to spend some extra time with the people that I love, while celebrating the birth of my Savior. Sometimes, though, I get caught up in the commercialized Christmas aspects of the holiday. Like those people juggling twenty packages and bags hobbling through the mall, frantically searching for the perfect Christmas present. Then something usually happens to break me out of that secular mind-set. For example, this year one of my students came in with an essay and I was reminded of what Christmas is all about.

See, this year, the senior religion teacher at La Salle Academy gave an interesting assignment to the students. He asked them to write a 100 word essay explaining what Christmas meant to them.

One student brought his essay in for me to read and I felt so much happier about the holidays. Almost every other essay I read talked about presents, packages, boxes, and bags. They talked about pies and candy galore. They talked about decorating with tinsel and trees and wreaths with large ribbon bows. They talked about shopping and ice skating and time off from school.

But here was a student who saw beyond that. He saw past the santas, the lights, and the music. He looked beyond the decorations, the parties, the gift exchanges, and got right to the root of Christmas. He talked about the true meaning of Christmas, quoting one of the most famous verses in the bible: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Christmas isn’t about the commercials on TV, the latest electronics, or finding the perfect present. Christmas isn’t about the turkey or ham, the cookies or pies. The Grinch discovered this when he tried to stop Christmas from coming. He stopped at the top of the hill, with his sleigh laden with the stolen food, gifts, and decorations, listening for the sad cries of Whos without a Christmas. Much to his dismay,

Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small, was singing! Without any presents at all! He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME! Somehow or other, it came just the same! And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so? It came without ribbons! It came without tags! “It came without packages, boxes or bags!” And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. “Maybe Christmas …perhaps …means a little bit more!”

The Grinch’s revelation is completely correct. Christmas is about more than the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. It’s about more than the decorations and presents and food.

I think the true meaning of Christmas is perfectly expressed in the famous scene from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. Charlie Brown has become so despaired in his “failed” attempt to participate in the Christmas spirit, that he loudly asks “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Fortunately, Linus Van Pelt is there to explain:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’

Christmas is about the birth of Jesus. It’s about sharing the joy of God’s love with those around us. It’s about letting God’s love shine through each of us and into the lives of those we serve. Over the last few school days before Christmas, I took a page out of Linus’s book, and shared some of my favorite CHRISTmas reminders with my students:

  1. A Charlie Brown Christmas
  2. “Peace on Earth,” Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey episode 054
  3. Santa and Jesus picture
  4. Teach the children about Christmas
  5. The REAL Meaning of Christmas (backwards)
  6. What is Advent Again?

Stephanie Carlsen, 11-13, La Salle Academy, New York, NY


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