Whom are we praising at Christmas?
When they (the shepherds) had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Our school year has drawn to a close with Christmas less than a month away. What we know about the very first Christmas was that there was much celebration over the birth of Jesus, with gifts brought from the Magi, a company of angels filled with praise and shepherds who were so inspired by what they saw and heard that they left the Nativity scene ‘glorifying and praising God’. As we spend time pondering what all the fuss of Christmas is about, as Mary the mother of Jesus did, I’d like to share with you some insight into the notion of praise and how it serves as an opportunity to express our deepest adoration.
The term ‘praise’ is associated with the idea of ‘appraisal’ and ‘to prize’. As an example, during our ‘Annual Prize Giving’ we acknowledge the students who have given their all to their academics, sport, co-curricula, music and service to the college. We praise them for their efforts, because upon appraisal, they have been identified as exemplary. What our boys are praised for isn’t so much their talent and ability, as much as how they have executed this with great skill and effort.
I remember a time when I sang at a friend’s wedding. Although I had been part of my school’s choir and had sung in musicals, singing at a wedding was something new to me. I remember feeling apprehensive and unsure as to whether I could deliver suitably for my friend and his bride, yet once my attention switched from being self-conscious to being focused on whom I was singing for, I recall experiencing a sense of liberation and energy. The point is, when we focus on the object of our praise, it is then that we are able to express ourselves with much enthusiasm and adoration. The shepherds in this scripture passage experienced firsthand the birth of the promised Messiah. They would have initially felt startled when they saw the angels rejoicing, but once they travelled to Bethlehem and saw for themselves, it was then that their attention turned to the object of this praise.
As we approach this Christmas period, consider the object of this great celebration. When we do our own appraisal by hearing and seeing for ourselves what all the fuss of Jesus is about, it is then that we can experience the fullness of the Christmas celebration.
I’d like to pay tribute to our Headmaster Dr Mulford as he retires from Newington. In terms of admiration and praise, Dr Mulford exemplifies the values that we strive to uphold here in the chapel. He is kind, compassionate, encouraging, hardworking, visionary, innovative, understanding and has always had the best interest of our community as his priority. He has honoured the Christian foundations of our College while supporting Newington’s commitment to engaging our diverse community. We wish him every blessing in his journey ahead and will forever be indebted to his service and contribution to Newington.
Finally, our ‘Newington College and Tupou College Christmas Carols Service’ will be held on Sunday, 9 December. I do hope you will join us for this very special event; a time to celebrate together. The Carol Service commences at 5pm, with a light supper available 6.30pm.
Rev. Geordie Barham