The Meaning of Christmas
by Adam Kronberger / Superintendent
One of my favorite classes in high school was sophomore English taught by Mr. Hild. During the writing intensive units, we were required to write a five-paragraph creative essay each week. One week the essay topic was, “The Meaning of Christmas.” Well, I fancied myself as one of the top writers in class, and did a bang-up job in my 15-year-old mind of describing all things Christmas. I covered just about anything remotely connected with Christmas, except for its true meaning. After Mr. Hild had graded the essays, he said he wanted to read one out loud in class before handing them back. Though usually humble of course, I was sure that the opening sentence of my essay would be the first words out of his mouth. But as he began, I did not immediately recognize the story. But as he continued, the story had a scent of familiarity. The author had chosen to rewrite the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) in a more culturally relevant context. As the essay reached its conclusion, the author made it very clear that the reason we should love our neighbor is because God loved us first, coming to earth as a baby and then dying on the cross for our sins. I was very proud of my teacher that day for having the courage and taking the initiative to read that particular essay in the classroom of a public high school. I was even more proud of the young lady who penned the words of the essay, as I began to realize I still had much to learn.
How many Christmas seasons have passed me by without showing the same courage and initiative to declare the true meaning of Christmas? Sure, I certainly attend church, Christmas programs, and participate in various forms of advent. But what about my unsaved neighbors, or friends and family members desperately in need of true hope? While the Christmas lights on my house hopefully confess our family’s allegiance to our Savior, does the same light shine out of my mouth and deeds for others to see and hear? My neighbors know I regularly go downtown to feed and clothe the homeless, but as I drive by their houses along the way, am I truly fulfilling loving my neighbor?
I love the song by Matthew West titled, “Do Something” (go ahead, find it on Youtube). The main idea of the song is that God is constantly bringing love and hope to the world through us. In this charged political season, it can be a full-time job keeping up with the campaigns, and pontificating our personal thoughts about everything that is currently wrong with this great country. Instead, why not make loving our neighbor at least a part-time job? Our children receive tremendous teaching each day at school and church. But perhaps the most impactful lecture they receive comes daily in the form of their observations of us as parents. I am thankful for the sophomore girl and English teacher who reminded me that loving your neighbor starts with courage and initiative. May our children this Christmas season learn this lesson as well, not only through Bible stories but through actions written as family memories.
– Adam Kronberger / Superintendent
by Molly Dillon / Keizer Campus Principal
During the month of November I was encouraged to share something I was grateful to God for each morning. As my focus remained on gratefulness, I immediately noticed a positive change throughout my day. When a challenging or difficult situation would arise, instead of thinking negatively, I began to ask myself in what way I could be grateful. It wasn’t always easy or automatic, yet as I determined to faithfully seek God’s goodness in every situation (and at times prayed for His help to see it), He was faithful to bless it.
When I found myself tempted to melt down over my family’s seemingly impossible schedule, I turned to gratefulness; only then did my perspective become one of blessing over the amazing events, activities, and ministries we are allowed to be a part of. When discouragement sought to block me from finding a resolution to a situation, appreciating that we serve a God who is in every detail and has all of the answers, I quickly reclaimed hope. An attitude of gratefulness is a choice, one which has revealed to me a greater awareness of God’s presence, power, and activity in every area of my life.
King David realized and repeatedly confirmed that his complete dependence was on God, and that everything was from God. He acknowledged God in each victory or defeat, blessing or tough lesson. Out of a grateful heart he wrote the most beautiful and eloquent Psalms in the face of evil and threat of death, as well as when he experienced peace and prosperity. Like David, we too should be grateful when our character is strengthened through trials, because through them we are becoming more like Christ. May we also endeavor to be grateful for the many discipleship opportunities our children present, for they are still in our homes where we have the privilege of speaking God’s truth into their lives.
Each day as we prepare ourselves for the blessings and battles ahead, along with the armor of God, we should perhaps add an accessory. I propose adding a wristwatch of gratefulness, so that at all times we too will proclaim “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13
This Christmas, may we all be mindful that every good and perfect gift is from above,
– Molly Dillon / Keizer Campus Principal
by Adam Kronberger / Superintendent
Do you remember the day you purchased your first cell phone? My first cell phone was so cool! It had a tiny little screen on the outside that told me what time it was. I could flip it open and use the number pad to text messages to my friends (if they had a cell phone). It could hold a charge for days (probably due to its lack of function and its lack of personal use)! A couple of years later I upgraded to a phone with a full keyboard that conveniently slid out when needed. The screen was twice as big, and the pictures I took could even be emailed to others. Then in 2013 I ended my holdout and purchased my first smartphone, a Samsung Galaxy S3 (don’t judge me Apple lovers). Literally, the purchase opened my eyes to a “whole new world”. While the learning curve was steep, as was the cost, the convenience and functionality changed my daily life dramatically.
This past fall, the screen on my S3 cracked and I was in need of a new phone. I was very content with it, so I simply wanted to replace it with a similar model. But as I did some research, I realized the S4 had many significant improvements and that the S5 had again made jumps ahead in technology. When I finally visited a store, the S6 was revealed to me and my jaw dropped to the floor. What a fine advancement of technology. I had to have one. All I could think about was getting this new phone. Within a few days, a completely content spirit had been consumed with constant thoughts of a driving “need” for an upgrade.
The school is focusing on the character trait of gratefulness during the month of December. One of the key points of gratefulness is to be content with what you have and to not complain about what you don’t have. Even with a Samsung Galaxy S3 cell phone, I was in the top 10% of the world regarding comfort and wealth. And yet when the next best thing was revealed to me, the contentment I thought I deliberately held was easily given away. I am reminded of what Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11b-13:
“...for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
There is nothing inherently sinful in seeking to upgrade your personal cell phone. But in the land of plenty, the pride we have in our lifestyles can quickly snatch away our contentment, which is the root of our joy, peace, and hope. During a month where getting oftentimes trumps giving, let an attitude of gratefulness fill our homes. May we daily practice expressing sincere appreciation to God and others for the ways they have blessed our lives.
– Adam Kronberger / Superintendent