The last week of school before Christmas break was our last shot at the virtue of enthusiasm. Using the second chapter of Luke, we read about the enthusiastic shepherds who were told by an angel that Christ was born. As the message sank in, the whole sky filled with angels singing to the glory of God. The surprised and overwhelmed shepherds “hurried off” and found the holy family just as the angel had said. They told Mary and Joseph what they had experienced. Later, the shepherds “went back singing praises to God for all they had heard and seen” and Mary remembered all these things and thought about them deeply.
This story follows on the heels of our very successful Guadalupe Day celebration when we remember that Saint Mary appeared to Juan Diego in 1531 on a hill just north of Mexico City. The event converted millions of indigenous people. I told the students that if they were Juan Diego, they could have asked Mary about those shepherds. Since she “remembered those things,” I bet she could have told them all about them. At our Saint John’s celebration, we had two services for about 450 people – students, parishioners, teachers, parents, grandparents, family members – all in worship and celebration of the great things God has done.
In 6th grade religion class, I asked twelve reflection questions about this story. Question 10: “Where were you when you first heard about this good news” that Jesus, the savior of the world, is with us. There were three categories of answer. A few students responded they heard the good news at their church. The next, still a small percentage, recalled that a family member told them the story of Jesus. Of 36 students, by far the most answers included “Chapel,” our Wednesday morning worship service at Saint John’s.
In our sixth decade as a school and church, Saint John’s has been a spiritual beacon and teaching resource to generations of kids. Over the years, fewer and fewer students are participating in traditional Sunday morning services and churches. For those students, Saint John’s is it – the place – for their spiritual nurturing and growth. Did you know we are the first witness to many children about the good news?
We have our first international student with more on their way. These students are interested first in how Saint John’s School can place them in the top high schools but also in our spiritual activities and instruction. The witnessing of Jesus Christ at Saint John’s is now extending beyond our roots in Chula Vista and Tijuana.
I had a dream almost a year ago in which I was with a small delegation from Saint John’s at a huge meeting of various churches held in an indoor football stadium. The doors that led into this meeting were based on church size. Big churches were led in through the main gate which meant their seats were on the ground level. Each level up meant a smaller sized church. I figured we’d be in the 200 or 300 level. But then I saw our name at the turf level. I was surprised but walked in through the main entrance. Inside, various churches cheered when our delegation walked in. They said our church and school is changing the world.
We are wrapping up our first-ever Christmas Village at Saint John’s. More than twelve neighbors, who have never been inside Saint John’s before, have visited and were hosted by our enthusiastic shepherds who gave them a tour of the beautiful Christmas trees, nativity scenes, and the church. It is a rare opportunity to share God’s love with our neighbors and our shepherds hosted Saint John’s very well.
If asked, what is Saint John’s doing, you might want to mention that we are witnesses of God’s love to many, including generations of school children and our neighbors. We are the enthusiastic shepherds who are proclaiming that Christ is here.