Newsflash: Christmas #1
Posted on December 03, 2018 by David Walford
A roundup of some of the school-based news that has hit the headlines this summer…
Whilst you may have heard some of these, or been following their progression personally, here are some of the news stories about school that you may have missed.
Headline: ‘Oh and we got rid of Christmas’ school tells pupils
Summary: Lady Lumley’s School in North Yorkshire has banned all Christmas activities this year. Whilst the students are allowed to argue their case and appeal to the leadership team, at the current moment, there will be no Christmas tree, no cards, no parties and no gifts. This decision was not a move away from the Christian message towards a non-offensive ‘watered-down’ ‘Xmas’; but rather a move towards stripping the commercialism away from the meaning of the celebration.
Opinions on this decision are unsurprisingly divided. It raises the questions of what are we celebrating at Christmas? How easy is it to understand that the Joy of the world came to be with us when surrounding by mulled wine and neck deep in Christmas traditions? How do we even explain, let alone get excited by Jesus when he is competing with the exaggeration of the Dutch Saint of Myra?
Not a religious school, Lady Lumley’s is making a valiant effort to bring Jesus and the Christian message back to the forefront of what happens in December. RE teacher Mrs Paul explains very clearly that even as a secular school, there are aspects of Christmas that the school doesn’t like, such as things like “how expensive it is, how perfect it has to be, how stressful all of this can be and how some people have a horrible, lonely Christmas”. It is incredible that a group of people are realising that there is something bigger than all of that at this time, and it is amazing that the young people are having the chance and opportunity to have the all-encompassing freight train of consumerism interrupted, to think and reflect about it rather than just carry on.
But I can’t help but feel a slight tinge that maybe they haven’t quite got it right.
It could be that the way the young people and parents were communicated. The news was broken in assemblies by ‘Father Christmas’ and in the school newsletter which opens that segment of the letter with ‘Oh and we got rid of Christmas’. Part of leadership is about taking people with you, and you do that by making sure people understand your vision. I personally wonder if this change was communicated in a way that didn’t show any of the vision that the school had, and almost makes me think that it may have done more damage than good.
If Christmas is about more than trees, more than decorations, more than gifts and parties, then why did the school say that when they were stopping these things that they were ‘cancelling Christmas’, the very festival they are trying to focus on? Aside from the negative language used, in this one bit of language are they not admitting defeat and suggesting that Christmas is only about that and nothing more?
So, what is Christmas about then? As Christians we know it is about celebrating the moment when God Almighty chose to embrace the mess of our lives and our world by choosing to become fully human. It is about God and his joy, peace and love for us and how we should be displaying them to one another. I think there is a different way to inject that back into Christmas.
For the pupils of Lady Lumley’s School in North Yorkshire, I think that this move away from consumerism and selfishness doesn’t have to be a move away from fun and joy. It may look little and gradual over the next few years, but even if that is too slow for the team at Lady Lumley’s, then inspiring young people to give and serve their community is potentially a better way to do it. Whether that is putting on performances and chatting with residents at local retirement homes, helping at the homeless shelter or giving gifts to those who need them, I think there are more encouraging ways as a secular school to combat the consumerism that has such a tight grip on Christmas than going ‘cold turkey’.
I feel that rather than be the ‘fun police’ in the eyes of the young people, focusing on Christ at Christmas is an opportunity to be loving people in the community and serving others rather than ourselves, to inspire them to know the God who loves them rather than resent him – right?
Question to leave you with: If Christmas is about the way Jesus came into the mess of our life and culture, then how do we as Christians interact with culture at Christmas?