A Christmas lesson: The Nativity reveals God’s profound love
By Mary Cohen
On the afternoon of Dec. 16, thousands of students throughout the state began their “winter break.” The students of the Archdiocese of Denver Catholic Schools will also enjoy two weeks away from the classroom; however, they will be taking the break to celebrate “Christmas.”
One of the many gifts of a Catholic education is the opportunity to fully participate in the celebration of Christ’s incarnation. In a society that grows increasingly hostile to any religious reference to the “holiday season” the Catholic schools offer a safe haven for children to contemplate in awe how God chose to enter in time as a humble baby in a manger.
Children need the opportunity to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas to avoid it becoming a time of self-indulgence and greed. Each of our Catholic schools celebrates the preparatory season of Advent with activities to help our students grow in virtue as they await the coming of the King. Special opportunities for prayer beyond the weekly school Mass are built into each day.
Prayer around the Advent wreath and the creation of ornaments for the Jesse tree are common activities in most of the Catholic schools. The majority of the schools are fortunate to have the clerical support to host penance services for the students during the month of December. Special attention is given to help students grow in the virtues of hope, faith and love, through Scripture reflections and reenactments of the Nativity of our Lord. Consider the powerful lessons on the virtues of humility and poverty received by our students as they spend time in meditation of our Blessed Mother’s consent to carry God’s only Son and the humble conditions of his birthplace.
The virtues of generosity and service are enhanced during this time as students are provided with many opportunities to participate in special works of mercy. Students are very generous in sharing their time, talent and treasure with those in need, during the Advent season. It is common to find each of our schools collecting, food, clothing and gifts for the needy during Advent; these collections take place in all of our schools—even those schools serving families with great needs themselves. Students learn that although we can never outdo God’s generosity, we can be the hands that assist in bringing his loving kindness to our brothers and sisters.
Advent and Christmas time are hugely important in the formation of a virtuous child. Children need to be taught that the greatest gift they receive on Dec. 25 comes from their loving God and not the toy shop. These are lessons that are taught in the Catholic school throughout the entire year but most especially during the Advent season.
An essential part of the mission of Catholic schools is to help all children recognize that they are made in the image and likeness of God and are of inestimable value. Christmas reveals God’s profound love and value for his children by giving us the gift of a savior. So while many public schools celebrate the changing of the seasons, we will continue to embrace the true meaning of Christmas.
The children in our schools engaged in the ritual of singing counter-cultural songs like “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and participated in the annual reenactment of the story of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. They collected gifts for those less fortunate than themselves and they prayed for peace on Earth; and when they stepped out the doors of the school on the afternoon of Dec. 16, they thanked God for the gift of his son, our Lord Jesus, and will celebrate it for two weeks.
Mary Cohen is an associate superintendent of the Denver Archdiocese’s Catholic schools.