Here's the view from our deck last Sunday morning when we had a few inches of snow. It was the best kind--just enough to make everything sparkle and not enough to affect travel on the roads. As you can see, our back yard is wooded. It's home to quite a bit of wildlife, including some foxes and many, (too many), deer. I often step out onto the driveway and see a deer nibbling about six feet away from me. They barely look up any more.

Well you would think that this snow would get me in the Christmas spirit, but that seems to be slow in coming this year. We have a interim pastor who is just wonderful and his sermon on the first Sunday in Advent was about anticipation. (For those of you of a certain age, he used the Heinz ketchup commercial with Carly Simon's "Anticipation" as one of his illustrations.) I'm finding it hard to capture that excitement. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that at my school we have been directed to keep the holidays out of our lessons. In fact, we were specifically reminded that only our first graders have units on holidays and traditions in their curriculum. So we have virtually no decorations except snowflakes and some stars.

Now, I totally understand that there are a variety of religious/cultural/ethnic backgrounds in our school population of almost 500 children. But I think that by not talking about the holidays, we're missing a great opportunity to teach tolerance for someone else's beliefs. In addition, learning about what others practice can give parents the chance to reinforce their values and beliefs with their children. I'm reminded of how in second grade my daughter was given the assignment of writing a letter to Santa (or if one was Jewish, the "Hannukah Fairy.") This actually offended me on several levels since my children never believed in Santa and I objected to the implied materialism being promoted. Rather than storming into the principal's office and raising a ruckus, I let my daughter write the letter and then talked with her about how what we think might not be the same as what others think and that is OK. It cheers me now to see her with a group of friends who come from a wide range of cultures and how they make room for lots of different points of view. Hers is definitely not my childhood world where everyone was white and Protestant, and many times, I think she and my boys are richer for having more exposure to the world.

In the broadest sense, anticipation in the Advent season is about welcoming the baby Jesus and making room for Him in our hearts and lives. I'm working on building that excitement and hoping that you're feeling it, too.


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