The Christmas Classroom Change Challenge

Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s December 2017 issue.

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Class is in session.  The days between Thanksgiving and Christmas present a unique “university” experience, but it seems we repeatedly skip class, sleep through lectures, and miss assignments.  We are "enrolled," paying high tuition, and we keep coming back every year, yet somehow, we still miss the lessons of Christmas.  Thankfully, it's not a pass or fail the class. We get opportunities to keep repeating the class until something sticks. 

If we took a peek into the lesson plans of this season, they would be jam-packed and full of learning opportunities big and small.  There are "labs" where we put the lessons into practice, and there are "tests" to evaluate what we've learned.  Of course, there are group assignments and group projects.  And in this season we don't mind those.  

Lesson 1:  We are meant to be light.

Let's take, for example, a few standard lessons on the syllabus of the season.  One includes driving and looking at lights, enjoying the simple beauty of vibrant light reflecting off the dark canvas of night.  While metaphorical, the lesson is incredibly invaluable.  It is only dark where light is absent.  What if you and I were to shine vibrantly and brilliantly with our unique colors in the darkest of places?  Where there is hate, be lights of love.  Where there is hurt, be lights of comfort.  Where there is anger, be lights of peace. 

Lesson 2:  We were created for community.

The syllabus includes feasting and festivities. Bringing people together face to face, not just on Facebook.  It also includes celebrations with those we don't know well, taking in those who are alone and those who don't have a family.  We seem to enjoy these occasions that occur during this season.  What if we were inspired to create these moments, these gatherings of unity and celebration long into the next year?  What if the Christmas season was just “chapter 1” of breaking bread together all year long? 

Lesson 3:  We are created to be givers.

Then there’s the lesson of generosity. Giving lavishly to those we love and even to those we may not know.  There are assignments we automatically complete but there’s also a heightened sensitivity to the needs of others. What if the lesson is to remain attuned to the needs of those around us every day, to find joy in giving all year long?

Lesson 4:  Hearts are meant to be open, not guarded and masked.

Even the “visual aids” of the lessons the movies of the season help to reinforce the teaching.  "It came without ribbons; it came without tags.  It came without packages, boxes, or bags.  Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store.  Maybe Christmas (he thought) means a little bit more."  Mr. Grinch is the extreme version of the darker side of humanity, but he does remind us of how our heart tends to shrink the more we focus only on ourselves.  (How the Grinch Stole Christmas)  And so even Kevin, a young boy, has to remind us, “If you won’t use your heart, who cares if it gets broken?  If you just keep it to yourself, maybe it’ll be like my rollerblades.  When you do decide to try it, it won’t be any good.  You should take a chance.  Got nothing to lose.”  (Home Alone 2:  Lost in New York) 

Lesson 5:  Joy is not found in things that are tangible.  And Lesson 6:  Faith is believing even when you cannot see.

As the shortened intensive course of Christmas carries us through December, children remind us of what it means to have faith, to believe.  “Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.” (Miracle on 34th Street)  “Seeing is believing, but sometimes, the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.” (The Polar Express)  This lesson seems so real, applicable, and true until the New Year rolls around and we begin to strive to find our worth, happiness, and contentment in things.  We spend our time, energy, and focus on the gathering of tangible riches instead of investing in the riches that bring real joy.

And when the Christmas classroom rounds out its last week, we have the choice.  We can choose to squelch the stirring and write it off as just a “season," or we can choose to adopt the reason for the season.  Christmas in its simplest (but most miraculous) beginning, began in a manger.  One baby born to change the world.  But it was never meant to end there.  “It’s Christmas Eve.  The one night of the year when all act a little nicer; we smile a little easier, we cheer a little more.  For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be."  (Scrooged)  What if Christmas is the beginning?  The inspiration for the 364 days to follow?  What if it isn't just a day?  “Oh, Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind.”  (Miracle on 34th Street)

Christmas Classroom Change Challenge:

What if, instead of writing New Year's Resolutions, we wrote a letter of reflection to ourselves in one year?  We write as if we carried out a lesson of Christmas all through the year and we reflect on how life was drastically different from its application.  For example, maybe you choose to carry out the lesson of generosity all year round.  In your letter, describe the 52 people that you intentionally blessed with your generous giving of time, thoughts, support, and resources each week.  Play out how your relationships became richer and your joy became stronger.  You see how your generosity inspired the generosity of your children, your neighbors, and even of strangers.  Your immediate and even further sphere of influence has been changed by the classroom of Christmas.  This letter can serve as your reminder all year to carry with you the inspiration of Christmas that began years and years ago but was intended to be carried out by you and me. 

about the author...Jamie, wife of her high school sweetheart and mom of 4 boys, has been in the fitness industry for 18 years. "Fuel the body, mobilize the soul" is her mission. Connect with Jamie on Facebook www.facebook.com/jamiebeeson1 or online at bit.ly/JamieBeeson