This week, a report referring to collective worship in schools was published. I watched several reports, listened to several commentaries and acknowledged (and respected) many with a different view to me.
The reality is that in many of our schools they are on the road to Bethlehem at this time of year.
The primary school staffrooms are full of the stress that is the “Nativity”. The costumes, the music and the worry that the kids will do exactly as they should on stage can push most teachers to breaking point.
So for some getting rid of a Christian celebration might be acceptable… But it’s not for me.
You may hold a different world view to me. That’s ok, I respect that.
I love Christmas, Christmas for me is about the birth of Jesus. I love the story. For me it’s all about hope.
It’s the culture, I have been brought up with. For me it is an opportunity alongside family and friends to celebrate that hope that came into the world as a baby, born in a lowly cattle stall. Even if you don’t truly believe it many still celebrate this amazing story.
When I think of the nativities I’ve been in and involved in – I think of the children who adorn the dressing gowns and put tea clothes on their heads, the mummies who to made angel costumes from white pillow cases and tinsel for a halo. I love that Mary always wears blue and the baby doll Jesus sleeps on straw. I think of happy children, proud parents and a tear in an eye during “holy night” or “away in a manager”. It’s a special warm feeling that the annual nativity creates. It is as joy memory banked.
Whilst I acknowledge that times have changed and the costumes are a little more supermarket chic…I still see the Christmas celebration as relevant to society. It is the story of Hope.
Hope for me is having only positive expectations. In every school I’ve worked in, we respected and celebrated other cultures. Many world religions offer mindfulness and positivity – few offer hope.
We all need hope, many of the young people I encounter need to know my hopes and aspirations for them, they need to know of my positive expectations.
So as we hit the road to Bethlehem over the next week, despite the political debates surrounding the rights and wrongs of collective worship – let’s focus our children on our hopes, let’s give their confidence a boost by appearing on stage and let’s remember that a long time ago a baby boy born in manager was able to change the course of history.
Our young people can change the world.
Tolerance is something that has long been taught in many schools. Our schools are more inclusive and respect for others is nurtured throughout many schools as a core value. Both the main church bodies in Northern Ireland recognise that faith based education is valuable in producing broad and balanced young people.
So ….Enjoy the journey, you are creating memories and embedding hope. There is nothing (in my opinion) wrong with that!