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My Christmas Card to My Students, The Nativity Bunch

December 24, 2016

1a1It is Christmas Eve morning and I am writing my online Christmas card to my students – and I will let you peek in on what I am saying.

To my students: I thank you for one of the most enjoyable semesters I have ever had, and I also want to wish you the deepest and most blessed Christmas of your life.  It’s an exchange, really.  You have given me the gift of the honor of being your teacher in the classroom, and I wish for you to enjoy this break from the classroom.

Oh, I love being a teacher.  Every class, every period here at Grace Christian Academy is a new adventure for me, and I say that with all sincerity.  I was not hired to lob chunks of knowledge around the room and hope somebody catches them; I’m here to share the experience of Scriptural discovery and the mystery of the Divine. If I don’t have the excitement and conviction of the Bible truths I’m sharing, then I have no business in the classroom.

We’ve had a great Yuletide season together.  We’ve studied the Star of Bethlehem, Handel’s Messiah, the birth prophecies, and the timeline of the Nativity.  I have enjoyed the excitement of the young scholars as we kept peeling back the pages of history and doctrine, revealing new truths every day. What a great time.

And it’s appropriate that today I send out a Christmas card to all of my students because they remind me so much of the Nativity story.  Let me explain.

You see, they are the characters of the Nativity story, in a sense.

I’m not kidding you.

The gentlemen and ladies of Bible 10 remind me of the personalities of the Christmas story.  I’ll break it down into the various groups…

First, there are the wise men.  I have some students who remind me of the wizened scholars who intensely studied the charts and made the trip to see the Christ child.  These magi are whom I refer to as the “lean-forward” students.  Whenever we open the Scriptures, these are the pupils who will immediately start digging and reading, almost frantically at times.  They want to know.  Just as I imagine the Persian astronomers checked and double-checked their charts, studies and calculations, I have a group of students who give me a furrow-browed intensity in any Bible subject we talk about, from the End Times to the crucifixion event to the Sermon on the Mount.  These are the students who will flip through their Bible and double check my teaching, such as the Bereans did with Paul.

But note:  it’s not just the learning process; these students are going to apply it.

Olivia was writing at a ninety-five miles-per-hour pace.  After class I stopped her and chuckled.  “Liv, if you keep writing like that you’ll break your wrist.  I believe you even took notes about how I coughed.  Why the manic approach to note taking?”

She smiled but also gave me an intense stare.  “This holiday season my family is traveling to see my relatives in the Midwest, and there will be seventy of them.  Seventy, all in one meeting hall.  None of them are Christians, and when we arrive, you can see that they’re ready to do battle – and that’s pretty much what they end up doing.  After the main dinner, they sit back and start yelling at my parents about their faith.  Yelling!  And it’s seventy against two.  Now, to be fair, when my parents discuss the Bible, the group pauses.  They’re willing to listen to answers.”  She patted her notebook.  “This is the first year that I’ll get involved in the debate.  I want to get every Bible answer possible.”

Yes, the magi students come to class with a passion that I love.  It gives me an adrenaline rush every time we get into a new section of Scripture.  Thank you, wise men and women.

Then there are the Shepherds.  This is not to say that these scholars are less intelligent; they just have a different approach.  These students might be new to the Christian faith, or maybe they have just never really been exposed to an in-depth approach to God’s Word.  The Bible narrative reveals the emotion of the shepherds as they were given the news of the great discovery of the Messiah’s birth.  That same emotion comes through in my classroom at times.  What I like – I love about my classroom Shepherds is their surprise – no, their astonishment whenever something is revealed in the Scriptures. We teachers call this the “ah ha” moment and it’s what we live for, really.  Just like last week, whenever I took them through the Scriptural journey of Handel’s Messiah.  Jim was sitting there, shaking his head and writing notes – he was totally unaware of the multitude of prophecies about the coming Messiah.  Even after class he gave me a thumbs up on the way out the door.  “I’m sharing this with my family tonight at dinner.”

One of my favorite stories is of Jeremy’s reaction whenever I was teaching of God’s omnipotence.  “Remember,” I said.  “God not only created the universe, He created the ability to create.  In fact, God not only created something, He also created the nothing that existed before anything existed.

Jeremy put his head down on his desk and waggled a finger at me as he collapsed his head into his arm.  “Hang on for a minute, I need some time to get my brain back in order on that one.”

Brandon got so excited about the Nativity story and the alignment of the Star that he fell out of his chair.

Literally.

He fell out of his chair.

Thank you, shepherds.

Third, we have Simeons in the classroom.  Simeon waited patiently day after day, waiting for the Messiah to come into view.  He knew he wouldn’t die until he saw the Savior, the world-changer.

Well, I have Simeons in my classroom.  They are unsettled until they get to see Jesus.  You can tell in their eyes – they will not finish this school year in Bible class until they get a deeper understanding of this Christ.  Meredith hangs back and asks about Jesus’ reaction to Thomas.  Pat sees me in the hall and asks about the best way to understand Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness.  Tim is walking alongside me at the lunch salad bar and wanting to know about the day of the crucifixion, and how Judas’ bowels gushed out.  Not exactly something you want to think about when you’re going past the tomato hummus.

Bless you and thank you, Simeons.

Fourth, we have Annas.   You know the Nativity story of the widow Anna, who stayed in the temple and was a magnificent prayer warrior.  She had a sorrowful past in having lost a husband, and people would have understood if she had wallowed in grief and become a recluse.  That didn’t happen!  Rather than grow bitter, she opened her life to the love of God and dedicated herself to live a life to glorify the Father. Anna was so sensitive in her relationship to Yahweh that when Mary and Joseph came to the temple to present the baby Jesus, Anna recognized Jesus as the redemption of Jerusalem.

Those that are Annas in my classroom have also suffered.  Much of it is in secret, but it is still as real.  So many students have broken homes, physical ailments, and deep disappointments in life! Yet I have not seen this type of student mope or grate at his or her hurtful circumstance.  Mostly they keep their grief a secret, and see each class as a way to come closer to the Jesus they love.  My heart breaks for the teens who endure hardships day in and day out, but it also amazes me of the joy they exhibit as they walk the path towards the Messiah, enjoying the newfound instruction of how He can mold their life.

Years ago, Tiffany came in and sat down before school.  “My mom is leaving my dad. This week.  And she’s trying to ‘buddy me’ so that we can just be two girls who shop and giggle all the time.  I’m actually having to be a parent to my mom.”

Bert came in a few days later.  “My parents are splitting up.  They’re so angry with one another I think they’d try to kill each other if they could get away with it.  And they keep coming to me for advice – and I’m sixteen!”

Linda is recovering from surgery that will keep her from every playing sports again.  Ben suffered an injury that, too, ended his playing days.  Lori is in remission from cancer.

This scenario happens every year.  Yet in each case I’ve seen the student dig deeper into the love of Christ and in the fellowship of other Believers and grow to a mature and powerful Christian.

God bless you deeply, Annas.

Magi, shepherds, Simeons and Annas … all in my classroom every day.

These are students of the Nativity.  These are students of epiphany – they want new discoveries every day.  I have the sometimes exhausting responsibility of making sure those new discoveries come.  And oh, how I love that.

Like with the Nativity characters, these students never give up seeking Christ for something more.

As I packed up my exam papers on one of the final days before Christmas break, Joe stepped into the room to say good-bye for the holidays.  He paused and confided to me.

“I wanted to tell you something.  You know, a number of students – myself included – really can’t stand those Bible speeches you make us do in class,” he said carefully.  I was about to respond, but held back; he hadn’t finished his thought. “But, well, we all got to talking about it at lunch.  We know we need it.”  He paused and grinned.  “I was so scared when I first got up that my hands were shaking.  But after a few times, I’m okay with it.  And guess what – my pastor asked me to share something in front of our church, and I could do it!”  He cocked his head to one side and nodded.  “I know that if I’m gonna share Jesus, I’d better learn how to speak.”

It reminded me of Clara, who stood in the hall before class with tears in her eyes. She was due to give a devotional on John chapter 3 that period.  She indeed was shaking.  “But I’m going to do this,” she said with clenched teeth.  “I am going to do this.”

And, God bless her, she did.

They all did.  And they still do.

They never give up. They want to conquer.  They want to discover.

That’s why I’m a teacher.

Merry Christmas to you all.  I love you dearly.

 

 

 

 

 

Brad Zockoll

Dr. Brad Zockoll
Copyright 2016

 

 

Brad Kent Zockoll

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