The Perfect Gift

From our friend Sandra Kelly, Director of Student Services for Belhaven’s LeFleur Campus

Like most people, Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love to decorate my home with lights, adorn my tree with ornaments and set up my animated nativity scene just above my fireplace. I enjoy driving around neighborhoods looking at lights and taking in all the beautiful Christmas decorations.  So, needless to say, I love everything about Christmas!

Now that Christmas Day has come and gone, I reflect on the past few weeks. The hustle and bustle, the parties and gifts, the songs and the greetings. And I examine myself: Did I really connect? Did I take a moment to ponder that Holy Night and that Special Gift? And will I truly try to carry the spirit of the season in my heart for the days, weeks, and months to come? Or do I set it aside along with the torn wrapping paper and empty boxes?

This time of year usually adds more tasks to my already full to-do list, and this year was no different. This month has been filled with loads of events to attend, a house to decorate, dishes to prepare for holiday parties, school Christmas programs to attend, church cantata rehearsals, and gifts to buy. With so much to do and so little time to do it, it is easy to miss the beauty of the season.

Each year, however, I refuse to allow stress to turn the Christmas season into a competition. To combat stress, one of the things I find joy in is listening to Christmas music. I know that there are numerous versions to some of the same classic songs. However, what I have learned to do is not solely focus on the tune, but rather listen to the words. When I do this, I find out that I just might hear the voice of God, and it may be the very therapy that I need in order to see Christmas as something more.

Let’s take a look at one of my favorite songs, “O Holy Night.” I love this song! Without a doubt, it is such a beautiful melody. Conversely, in verse one, hidden is one lyric that is a countenance of the Christmas spirit. “’Til he appeared and the soul felt its worth….”

A fulfilled promise lies true with the coming of Christ. Jesus’ birth is prophesied in the Old Testament, like Isaiah 7:14, which references Mary, the virgin’s birth. Miraculous is the birth as is the promise that presented humanity redemption. This was the first essential step towards Easter and the cross. So, when Christ was born, like this song says, as His children, we all revealed that we were worthy. Even in all of our mess (sin), God deemed us still important enough to keep His promise and come for our souls. I tell you what…..that is pure love!

So what does Christmas mean to me? It is all about God giving us His best, because He passionately loves us. Don’t believe me? Remember what John tells us in John 3:16: “For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son…” (NLT). Again, the Bible reassures His love in 1st John 4:9-10: “God showed how much He loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. This is real love” (NLT).

By now, you should be smiling! Does that not just warm your heart? As you go through the hectic holiday season where you are doing all that you can to keep up, you can be at peace, because you have already established worth and love in your Heavenly Father. Forgot to buy a gift? It’s fine! Messed up putting up the Christmas lights? That’s ok, too! Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’ birth and the awareness that we are loved just the way we are.

I hope you enjoyed a Merry Christmas! And may the Joy of the season abide with you throughout the New Year!

Belhaven Singing Christmas Tree

You Go Daddy!

The Chattanooga campus of Belhaven University will hold its graduation ceremony next Thursday evening. Two Decembers ago, I wrote about a child who yelled “Yay Daddy” when his father walked across the stage to receive his associate degree. Although I’m sure that the child was simply caught up in the excitement of seeing his dad momentarily elevated above the crowd, it struck me that there may be something more to that temporary interlude in our ceremony than appears on the surface. Here’s what I wrote two years ago:
• The words “Yay Daddy” coming from an adult student’s child confirm that the hard work and sacrifice that goes into earning a college degree has been worth it. Someone who loves and looks up to the graduate has uttered the ultimate confirmation.

• The words “Yay Daddy” indicate that the child recognizes graduation as a major accomplishment in his parent’s life. He sees that his dad’s hard work is recognized and makes the connection between diligence, perseverance, and reward. These are vital connections for the child’s future success in school and in the workplace.

• Finally, the words “Yay Daddy” mean that the child, more than likely, will be a college graduate himself. Research indicates that children of college graduates are more likely to be college graduates themselves. Our kids are watching. They see Mom or Dad writing a paper, reading a book, or preparing a presentation. Children see the value in education only to the extent that their parents model its value.

What’s interesting this year is that our “daddy” is graduating again – this time for his bachelor degree. So, what does his latest accomplish teach us about this dad and what might his son learn from it? Here’s an additional thought:

• The words “Yay Daddy” now become “Go Daddy.” This little boy’s father doesn’t stop after completing one educational milestone. He keeps on going! It’s now evident that he sees the importance of life-long learning. In our current economy and certainly as we move into the future, we must keep on learning as our resources and vision allow. As important as it is for this child to learn (through the example of his father) the value of education, it is at least equally important for him to learn the value of persistence in education. It will take a life-long learner to succeed in his brave new world.

I’m not sure what words the children of our graduates will utter at graduation this coming Thursday evening. I’m sure they’ll be restless about ten minutes into the ceremony, and before long, it goes without saying that some cries and other sounds of discontent will begin to compete with the speakers and musicians. So, TJ, in case your little man is asleep or otherwise distracted when your name is called this year, from all of us at Belhaven University, You Go Daddy! Graduate classes begin in January.

Ed Pickel
Belhaven University