Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Merry Christmas Day #6: A Semester in Review

Sitting on the cusp of 2010, the start of our next semester and the beginning of a new decade, I find myself looking back at what has been a memorable Fall Semester. Please allow me the pleasure of reliving some of those moments.

The year officially began for some students on August 19, as our new freshmen class arrived for Freshmen Orientation. We were particularly excited to have nine Armleder students join their North Campus classmates, our largest Armleder contingent yet. While the class of 2013 was smaller than the previous year, the percentage of new faces to CHCA was higher, with nearly a third of the class coming from the outside. Not only did students join us from middle schools across the Tri-State area, but Hee Woo Choi and Da Sol Kim arrived from Korea, while Che Li joined the class from China. I spoke with the students about the history and tradition they were joining at the MSL High School and we took a tour of the campus. They were then oriented to high school life, participated in a session on study skills, did team building exercises with Student Ambassadors, and finished with a “Schedule Scavenger Hunt” that ended with students trying out their locker combinations. Everyone who successfully opened his/her locker (everyone to my knowledge), found a neon green freshmen class t-shirt. Thanks to this day, freshmen seemed more at ease on the first day of school.

We began our year as a community with our Opening Convocation at Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church on August 20th. It was a beautiful time for all of us to open our year with prayer and worship. Unfortunately our attendance was much lower than expected for the event but it was a meaningful time for all who participated.

Our first week ended with a celebration. Despite the early hour, a rowdy student body packed into the gym bleachers to root on the Eagles in a 7 AM pep rally on live television. The Fox 19 crew did live news spots and weather broadcasts from campus with performances by the pep band, Encore, and the cheerleaders. Players, coach, and AD were all interviewed as well. The network crew commented on our spirit. They said we’d be a hard act to follow and that we’d set the bar high for all schools to come.

In chapel Mr. Salkil kicked off the year with a series entitled “My School.” He focused each week on a different aspect that makes us unique: our identity in Christ, service, and worship. He highlighted how we are a community that shares life together and that we are to challenge each other to grow in our faith in Christ.

As we moved into the second quarter, we celebrated Spirit Week and our school’s twentieth year anniversary. Students showed their spirit, dressing for Nerd Day, Western Day, Twin Day, College Teams, and Class Colors. The highlight of the Spirit Competition was our first ever Homecoming Float Competition and halftime parade. Keeping wih the theme “There’s No Place Like Home,” the freshmen pulled the unexpected upset. A blow out for the football team and a beautiful Homecoming Dance at the Phoenix capped off a memorable week.

A memorable moment for me was at the 20th Year Anniversary program when alumni from each graduating class introduced themselves and told where they are now. It was humbling to see the outcome of the teaching and learning and growing we do here together. Then current students, from high school all the way down to pre-school , introduced themselves as future graduates. Our future is bright!

A number of other moments stick out so far this year. The Three Musketeers received rave reviews. The Eagles win against North Hardin on a game ending field goal was historic. Encore made us proud in their many performances, from the National Anthem at the Reds game to opening for the Lindner Great American Financial Christmas party. We were well represented at the Girls State Tennis meet, with a singles and a doubles representative. The MSL High School was listed in the Cincinnati Magazine issue on high schools as one of five schools named in the General Excellence category. Mr. Baker’s homeroom of freshmen guys, Baker’s Dozen, beat all odds and won the Homeroom Dodge Ball Tournament in front of a wild student body. The AP Art Exhibit "Drawn" awed all in attendance. And at the end of the semester, we were led into the Christmas season at the Sacred Music concert at St. Xavier church, where all of our musical groups and ensembles shared their musical gifts as an offering of worship.

The list of all the wonderful moments so far this year could go on and on. But much is still ahead. What will happen next? May we at CHCA have a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Merry Christmas--Day #3

I hope each of you has experienced the power and beauty of Christmas. My moment came at a Christmas Eve service. My wife and I commented that this might be the first Christmas Eve service that we’ve enjoyed since having kids. The past few years I’ve felt less like a worshipper coming to the manger and more like a warden arriving at maximum security. In the past, the goal was finding a way not to ruin the experience for everyone else in attendance and somewhere around the third outburst, I would be questioning why I didn’t keep our three “Christmas angels” under lock and key at home and guarantee a successful outcome for the rest of the church. This year was different. Abe was a “greeter” with me, welcoming those arriving in the sanctuary. Pete and Jake each played a Christmas carol on the piano with their piano teacher/mother as part of the prelude. And I watched as each one was engaged in his own way throughout the service. And as the service closed with a candle lit “Silent Night,” I was moved to tears and not because one of my children burned down the church. But as the pastor lit his candle from the Christ Candle, which we’ve been waiting for all of Advent, I saw the wonder shining on each child’s face as they watched the Light of Christ spread among the darkness of the congregation.

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, Love’s pure light
Radiant Streams from Thy holy face,
with the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord at thy birth! Jesus Lord at thy birth!

A good friend of mine encouraged me to actually read Dicken’s A Christmas Carol instead of just watching another version on television. And after reading it, the most poignant part that no movie I’ve seen fully captures is the sense of rapture in Ebenezer post ghostly epiphany. William James discusses in his Varieties of Religious Experience how for converts, the world is radically changed. It is as if they are seeing the world for the first time, or put another way, are actually living in a different world altogether. Once Ebenezer Scrooge understands what power, joy, and hope the birth of Christ can bring to the world generally and his life specifically, he enters a world of wonder and opportunity.

We often bemoan the commercialization of the Christmas holiday and the busy-ness and bustle. We often burn out before the day actually arrives. In America, we in the church have in many ways lost Christmas to the malls. A perfect example of this is the post-Christmas let down. On December 26th, we have the sense that it is over for another year. Nothing could be further from the truth! In the West, Christmas proper has historically been a 12-day feast, beginning on the 25th and running until Epiphany on January 5. In the Church calendar, there are five Sundays of Christmas. How long is too long to celebrate the Incarnation?! But in a consumer driven culture that runs on how much we spend and what we buy, Christmas begins the day after Thanksgiving and stops when the stores close on Christmas day. Sadly, once the stores have nothing left to market, we Christians fall into the same trap, as if we have nothing left to celebrate!

So let me encourage and challenge you. Today is Christmas Day 3—celebrate it accordingly! You have nothing left to buy, no holiday tasks left to do. Just celebrate! Christ’s birth has changed all reality. A personal God became human to engage us in a relationship that caused even angels to sing! How do we celebrate accordingly? I don’t truly know. Everything seems understated in comparison to an event so significant. Find the power, joy, and hope that Ebenezer found all around him. Where can I see the Light of Christ today? Create traditions in your family that continue your celebration of the Savior’s birth. For the next twelve days, every dinner together around our table, we light the Christ Candle in the middle of our advent wreath. We also try to spend time with friends and family that sadly we don’t always find time for during the year. May the Festival of Christmas restore our body, mind, and spirit! May it restore our relationships! May it restore our churches and our communities! May it restore our world!

Joy to the world, the Lord is Come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
Let Heaven and Nature sing!
Let Heaven and Nature sing!
Let Heaven and Nature sing!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Christmas Confession

Merry Christmas! As I sit in a house with three wired kids only three days from Christmas, with snow gently falling outside and a cup of coffee in hand, all seems perfect with the world. It has been a wonderful semester with many highlights over the past months. But I must confess the obvious: I have been a blogging failure! While it has been a successful semester, it was also an extremely busy one. And I had the pleasure of teaching sixteen thoughtful, intelligent, creative seniors in my "Israel in the World" course, but the fifteen hundred pages of reading I assigned kept me "engaged" as well! I have four "Peace Plans" left to read and then the course will be complete.

Over the next couple weeks of vacation, I will try to catch everyone up on what's been happening on campus as I try out my New Year's resolution early of being a better blogger. So hit on the blog every few days and check on my progress. In the mean time, I need to get out and finish the last of the Christmas shopping.

I hope you and your family are having a beautiful time together in the midst of this Christmas season. May you experience the love of Christ among you and may you make memories together!