Today we have our annual, all-School Christmas Assembly. All 930 students, and all staff, both teaching and non-teaching, in the double gymnasium for this annual fest of Christmas songs, skits and music. The climax of the event occurs when I conduct the entire massed voices in a rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas. It is loud and spirited, with a very precious moment in each verse when we come around to the Kindergartens and Grade Ones trying to eke out “and a partridge in a pear tree.” I help them by holding the microphone up to a few of their mouths each time for added volume. It is a ton of fun, and we then send back to the waiting arms of their parents, totally wired.
Earlier in the week the Christmas themes started to weave their colours in and out of the fabric of the School – the Hawes family (Dorothy, Senior School English teacher; Ashley, grade 12 student; Colin, Grade 9 student, and Jenny, Grade 7 student) light the first candle in the Advent wreath and talk about their Okanagan-German traditions. We start singing Christmas carols. I made my annual contribution to “We Three Kings,” with my verse of “myrrh,” while Brian Christensen (Grade 10) was “gold,” and Rachael Baptiste sang “frankincense.” (A few years ago this annual solo of mine gave rise to some ruminations in a School Ties article, myrrh being the most complex of the gifts of the magi.) Last night we had a resplendent Middle School Carol Service; tomorrow night we have 700 people in a transformed double gymnasium for the annual Christmas Gala organized by the Parents Auxiliary (a huge thank you to this energetic, tireless – and possibly, tired – crew of parents).
Sometimes at Christmas I happen to speak in Chapel, and sometimes on this occasion I refer to what I call my favourite Christmas poem – Robert Frost’s “Stopping by woods on a snowy evening.” Robert Frost is a poet whose folksy and plain veneer always lifts on deeper layers of enigma and complexity, peppered with allusions to his predecessors in the canon, all the way back to Shakespeare. Likewise with this poem: he pauses by the dark woods; it is a few days before Christmas – “darkest evening of the year;” his horse, decorated for the season, “gives his harness bells a shake.” The woods, he says, are “lovely, dark and deep”. At this point in the poem we are all very aware of the cocoon of darkness, and the invitation in that darkness that many a reader extends in a contemplation of the darkness in the entire world. But then he picks up the reins – he has promises to keep, and miles to go before he sleeps.
I always feel, in the breath he takes upon picking up the reins, that it is a moment of light, and I ponder again that it is in the midst of darkness that light shines most brightly. May this be, for everyone, a season of light.