Holidays

A Gift for Teacher

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A Christmas tale by Eric Buehrer

Copyright by Gateways to Better Education - Do not reprint without permission

‘Twas the night before Christmas and the kids were all in bed. Mom, a teacher at the local elementary school, went downstairs to finish wrapping gifts under the big pine tree the family got from Mr. Cheever’s Christmas tree lot. Just as she finished putting the last red bow on the last red box, she heard the scrape, scrape, scraping of something in the chimney. No sooner had she turned around when down the chimney came Santa with a bound.

“Oh,” he said with surprise. “I’m usually pretty good at not being seen.” Then he laughed a big, round laugh and put down his bag.

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“Let’s see,” he muttered to himself as he pulled out a list of what to place under the tree. “Oh, yes.” He cleared his throat. “You’ve all been very good this year. Especially you...even with Tommy Wigglebottom in your class. You’ve been a wonderful teacher!”

“Thank you,” she said as he pulled brightly colored presents from his bag.

Quick as a flash, he was done with his deed. He looked at his list for one last read. Then he made a “har-umph” sound to himself and got a puzzled look on his face. “There is one more thing...”

“Yes?” said the teacher.

“Why haven’t I heard any singing at school?” Santa asked with a sorrowful look.

“Singing? Why, we’ve been singing. Haven’t you heard the children’s rendition of Frosty the Snowman and Jingle Bells? I know it’s a long way to the North Pole but I would think you have some way of tuning this sort of thing in.”

“I mean Christmas carols,” said Santa. “Where are the carols?”

“Oh, I loved to sing carols when I was a child in school. But, we can’t sing those now,” she said as she shook her head. “I teach in a public school.” She was surprised that Santa didn’t already know this since he knew about Tommy Wigglebottom.

“Of course you are in the public schools. But Christmas is Christmas no matter where you are. And if you’re concerned about the law, well, have no fear. Don’t you know about the Federal Appeals Court ruling in Florey v. Sioux Falls School District? It ruled that the school district's policy is fine and students may sing religious Christmas carols!”

The teacher had never heard this before and was quite surprised. “What about the separation of church and state?”

“It doesn’t apply,” said Santa. “The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that singing Christmas carols does not violate the Constitution if the purpose is the ‘advancement of the student’s knowledge of society’s cultural and religious heritage.’ I just wish I could hear them singing real Christmas songs.

“And while I’m thinking about it, why haven’t you told the children the real Christmas story?” he asked.

“You mean about the baby Jesus?” the teacher asked in disbelief.

“Is there another Christmas story that I’m not aware of?” Santa said with an impatient twitch of his mustache.

“But, we can’t promote religion in the public school,” she retorted.

“Who’s promoting?” said Santa. “You’re teaching about your culture. May I remind you of the Florey case in which the Court ruled that as long as education about the religious holiday is ‘presented in a prudent and objective manner and as a traditional part of the cultural and religious heritage,’ it is permitted.”

By now the teacher was quite confused. She had never heard this before. She always assumed that recognizing the religious aspects of Christmas at school was off limits.

“We can’t even call Christmas by its name. We have to call it ‘Winter Break,’” she said with regret in her voice.

“A tragedy of modern times,” Santa said with a sigh. “And it’s not even consistent with other public practices. The Supreme Court acknowledged in Lynch v. Donnellythat ‘Executive Orders and other official announcements of Presidents and of the Congress have proclaimed both Christmas and Thanksgiving National Holidays in religious terms. And, by Acts of Congress, it has long been the practice that federal employees are released from duties on these National Holidays, while being paid from the same public revenues that provide the compensation of the Chaplain of the Senate and the House and military services. Thus, it is clear that Government has long recognized—indeed it has subsidized— holidays with religious significance.’ ”

Santa added, “The Lynch case dealt with the public display of a nativity scene, which the Court said didn't violate the Constitution. And, in its ruling the justices actually assumed public school children are singing traditional Christmas carols. The Court wrote, “To forbid the use of this one passive symbol while hymns and carols are sung and played in public places including schools, and while Congress and state legislatures open public sessions with prayers, would be an overreaction contrary to this Nation's history and this Court's holdings.” (emphasis added)

“How is it that you know so much about United States law?” asked the astonished teacher.

“I’ve been around a long time,” he replied. “And I’m saddened to see so many children think that Christmas is just about getting video games and toys. For that matter, it’s not just about ‘Love’ either. It’s about the baby Jesus as a gift from God. When I give gifts it is only to remind people of The Gift from God to all of us. I guess I just want kids to turn off the TV and look up from their smart phones long enough to realize that there are deeper things in life—things that we carry with us from generation to generation. We have a culture with deep roots and I want to give children a little depth...then they can go back to the TV if they must.” Santa scooped up his bag, and then added, “I guess I’ve given you the best gift I possibly could. I’ve given you freedom.”

“What do you mean?” the teacher asked.

“For years you’ve lived under the burden of self-imposed censorship about Christmas. You placed a gag order over your own mouth. Now you can be free from that! You can give to your students what you had as a child in school.” He turned and started up the chimney. With a jolly chuckle, he said as he went, “Like the baby Jesus said when he grew up, ‘You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.’”

A Gift for Teacher holiday card can be purchased for $4

Christmas Resource Page

President’s Thanksgiving Proclamation Misses the Mark

President Obama has issued his Thanksgiving Proclamation for 2015. If his proclamation was our only instruction about Thanksgiving, we would think it is just about “generosity and partnership” rooted in the cooperation between the Pilgrims and Native Americans. He does make a brief mention of George Washington’s reference to God in his proclamation, and he reminds us that Lincoln called on Americans to "'commend to [God’s] tender care' those most affected by the violence of the time – widows and orphans…" Unfortunately, he refocuses Thanksgiving to be a time of “lifting one another up, enjoying time with those around us, and appreciating all that we have” – including “cheering on our favorite sports teams.” He confuses what people do on the holiday with why we, as a nation, have the holiday.

To be reminded of what Thanksgiving is about, we can look to Thanksgiving proclamations from previous presidents. This isn't about political sides. Both Democrats and Republicans have historically maintained a proper focus for Thanksgiving. 

In his 1977 proclamation Jimmy Carter reminded the nation:

“Upon learning of the American victory at Saratoga in 1777, Samuel Adams composed the first National Thanksgiving proclamation, and the Continental Congress called upon the governors of every state to designate a day when all Americans could join together and express their gratitude for God’s providence ‘with united hearts.’ By their actions they extended a revered regional custom into a national tradition.”

And Carter called on “all Americans to gather on that day with their families and neighbors in their homes and in their houses of worship to give thanks for the blessings Almighty God has bestowed upon us.”

In contrast, President Obama has asked Americans to “express our gratitude by welcoming others to our celebrations and recognize those who volunteer today to ensure a dinner is possible for those who might have gone without.” To be fair, he did ask us to “give thanks for all we have received this past year” but was careful not to offend anyone by suggesting to whom we should direct that thanks.

In his 1996 proclamation, Bill Clinton did not mince words when he reminded Americans what the Day is for and to whom we should direct our thankfulness:

“Let us now, this Thanksgiving Day, reawaken ourselves and our neighbors and our communities to the genius of our founders in daring to build the world's first constitutional democracy on the foundation of trust and thanks to God. Out of our right and proper rejoicing on Thanksgiving Day, let us give our own thanks to God and reaffirm our love of family, neighbor, and community.”

However, when it comes to the most inspiring Thanksgiving proclamation, my personal favorite is Ronald Reagan’s 1985 proclamation in which he reminded Americans:

“…this treasured custom derives from our Judeo-Christian heritage. ‘Unto Thee, O God, do we give thanks,’ the Psalmist sang, praising God not only for the ‘wondrous works’ of His creation, but for loving guidance and deliverance from dangers....Let us thank God for our families, friends, and neighbors, and for the joy of this very festival we celebrate in His name.”

All I can say to that is, “Amen.”

Resources:

2015 Thanksgiving Proclamation

Excerpts from Past President’s Thanksgiving Proclamations

All Thanksgiving Proclamations from 1778 to 2012

Six Years a Slave

Who was the first person to go on record against slavery? Here’s a little known fact that kids won’t learn in school (unless you change that): according to historian Thomas Cahill, the first person in history to write against slavery was Saint Patrick. Both his Christian faith and experience led him to do it.  Patrick was born in the 4th century to Christian parents who were Roman citizens in Briton. As a boy he was kidnapped and become a slave for six years in Ireland. He prayed daily that God would rescue him, and eventually he escaped and returned home. But he felt God calling him to return to Ireland with the Gospel. 

By the end of his life he had baptized over 120,000 Irishmen and established 300 churches. Within his lifetime, or shortly thereafter, the Irish slave trade ended – the result of a transformed people. St. Patrick’s Day (March 17, the day of his death) is the honoring of a Christian for his missionary work. Unfortunately, the true history of Patrick is seldom told in schools today. But, you can change that simply by telling the real story.

Resources:

Obama's 2013 Thanksgiving Proclamation

President Obama has issued his Thanksgiving Proclamation in which he reminds us that "we rise or fall as one Nation, under God." He also quotes Abraham Lincoln "who called on his fellow citizens to 'fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.'" Putting politics aside, we can all appreciate the President's reminder to Americans that we are a nation under God. And he chose an excellent quote from Lincoln. Last year he asked the nation to "spend this day by lifting up those we love, mindful of the grace bestowed upon us by God." In 2011 and 2010 he was even more direct in referring to giving "thanks to each other and to God," and lifting "up our hearts in gratitude to God for our many blessings."

Thanksgiving is a teachable moment. After we bow our heads in prayers of gratitude to God for His blessings, we should point out to our children that Thanksgiving Day is a testimony to the deeply religious heritage of America. Every Sunday, we thank God for His blessings. But once a year, the President of the United States - "by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States" - calls on the nation to thank God for His blessings.

 

‘Tis the Season for Censorship

The holiday season is fast approaching. Christians as well as atheist activists both relish this time of year, but for completely different reasons. People of faith see this time as a heartwarming opportunity to enjoy deeply held traditions in the American culture. Atheist activists, on the other hand, see this as the proverbial “golden opportunity” for their cause. They can hardly wait for the publicity they gain from attacking schools and town councils. In many of America’s schools, the atheists have been effective in censoring mention of the religious nature of holidays. For example, too often educators teach that Thanksgiving is merely a nostalgic remembrance of what happened 400 years ago between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans. Students get the idea that besides some dusty old origin, Thanksgiving is about Turkey, football, and being the day before Black Friday retail sales.

A few years ago, Americans United for Separation of church and State got mad at us because we “encourage teachers to use Thanksgiving to explain how the country thanks ‘God for His blessings.’” Guilty as charged. We encourage educators to actually educate their students about the meaning of Thanksgiving as expressed by the President of the United States in his annual Thanksgiving Proclamation.

For example, last year, President Obama proclaimed, “This day is a time to take stock of the fortune we have known and the kindnesses we have shared, grateful for the God-given bounty that enriches our lives… Let us spend this day by lifting up those we love, mindful of the grace bestowed upon us by God and by all who have made our lives richer with their presence.” But if atheist activists had their way, the President’s words would be censored from the classroom.

And when it comes to Christmas, many educators have been so intimated by atheist threats they censor traditional Christmas carols and references to the birth of Jesus. Consequently, the lesson students absorb is that Christmas is just a merry commercial enterprise.

During the Christmas season last year, the atheist extremists of the Freedom From Religion Foundation couldn’t resist trying to be offensive to Christians in Arlington Heights, IL, who got proper permission to set up a Nativity scene in a park. Instead of merely setting up their own display celebrating some atheist holiday in an expression of multicultural diversity, these extremists put up a display directly across from the Nativity scene with a heartwarming banner that read: “There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth & superstition that hardens hearts & enslaves minds.”

Hopefully this year school boards and town councils won’t join the atheists in singing “’Tis the Season for Censorship.