By Nate Paul
Each school year is filled with millions of little moments—like Mrs. Brown showing her students what it looks like when a butterfly crawls out of its cocoon, or Dr. Abood grabbing the backpack, and the donut, to help a student out of their car at drop-off, or two preschool students meeting each other for the first time and instantly getting into the subject of whose shoes make them run faster.
As cliché as it sounds, in the hustle and bustle of our school day, we can overlook these little moments and lose appreciation for their worth. For me, one of the greatest blessings about my job as Digital Marketing Assistant is that I get to capture all of those little moments every day. At 10:00, I could be down in the preschool taking pictures of the 4-year-olds learning how to write the letter “R.” By noontime, I might be up at Runey Hall, interviewing one of the seniors about their post-graduation plans. On any given day, I see the entirety of the PCA mission, and the agents involved in its execution. I see hard-working teachers constantly adjusting to the number of on and off-site students in their classroom, constantly being the best they can be for their students. I see parents, faced with their own hurdles in their personal and professional lives, calling out, “I love you!!” to their children as they head off to work, and, even better, I see the smiles on those parents’ faces when their children yell “I missed you!” at pick-up. It’s my job to put these little moments on display, because most parents don’t have the opportunity to witness and appreciate them like I do.
I had the fortunate opportunity to run the Christmas Concert broadcasts on Thursday, along with resident audio extraordinaire, Dan Schmunk (shoutout to Dan!). Although I had plenty to focus on throughout the course of the day—keeping commercials running, making sure camera angles were switched to at the right time, etc.—more often than not, I found myself in reflection.
As I said in the Thanksgiving video that was released shortly before break, things have been different around here. The concert on Thursday looked nothing like it has in the past. At the beginning of the day, I walked into the gym and saw seats in groups of two, spaced 6 feet apart (it felt like 20+), and gallons of hand-sanitizer, and I thought, “Gee, this is kind of depressing.” (I’m Scots-Irish. I tend to live on the pessimistic side of things.) However, once parents started filing in, obviously getting to take some time off from work to come watch, a feeling of gratefulness began to swell within me.
The gym was quiet. All of a sudden, little footsteps came marching down the hallway through the gymnasium lobby. As if it was planned, 50 phones flew from the parents’ pockets, each pointed at their little kindergartner—some little girls dressed in Christmas red dresses, some in white; some boys wearing little green clip-on ties and some boys, you could tell, were wearing ties at one point.
The students made their way to the stage, waving every step, or skip, I should say. The phones stayed in the air through all 3 songs, and the smiles stayed on the parents’ faces. This same routine continued throughout the day. With each concert, parents I’ve only seen behind their steering wheel at drop-off were able to come on campus and watch their child perform. When the piano played, the children sang, and those violin bows met the strings, everything seemed normal. Everything seemed ok. Those hilarious moments that only kids can provide, the mid-performance waves and the overexaggerated curtseys and bows, reminded me that there’s something much bigger at play here. Those little voices drifted far beyond our gymnasium. They met the voices of angels in God’s heavenly court, gloriously serenading and honoring the birth of our Savior. What seemed like a little moment that could’ve been easily overlooked, I believe, had cosmic implications.
The same thing can go for the entire Christmas season. While we’re out buying presents for our friends and family, while we’re rushing around the house looking for the card we meant to give Grandma, we can lose appreciation for that singular moment that changed our world forever. That tiny moment when Mary first gazed into the manger and stared straight into the face of God, into the face of our Lord and Savior, who came down to our earthly realm, took on sinful flesh, comforted, forgave, and ultimately died for each of us. That same baby who lay helpless, wrapped in swaddling clothes, now sits upon the throne, presiding over His heavenly kingdom, and with a mighty, outstretched arm, carries us through lockdowns, mask mandates, algebra tests, and through all the physical and emotional afflictions in between.
Though this year continues to be one to forget, as we worship and celebrate with our families and our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s take note of those little moments.
When your preschooler unwraps her gift under the tree, keep that moment of joy ever present in your heart. When your college student slowly makes his way down the stairs, waiting for the moment he can go back to sleeping in, think about how wonderful it is to have him home. When the COVID-19 pandemic is in our rearview, and we’re finally able to throw that box of masks in the trash can, let’s not forget to continue showing love to others. And when we’re finally able to embrace our neighbors, let’s not forget those moments when we couldn’t.
Carroll Stevens, PCA’s Fine Arts director, made a great comment at one point in the concert: “Christmas is nothing without Easter.” How true! Our culture continually tells us that Christmas is nothing without presents, without a pine tree in our living room, without family, without friends, and without Mariah Carey’s awful song that I sing at the top of my lungs when nobody can hear me. But, as agents of the advancement of Christ’s love, marching under His banner, stationed at His outpost here in Dover, New Hampshire, let’s not forget what Christmas is. More importantly, let’s not forget to appreciate what that first Christmas gave us all.
As my favorite Christmas Carol, Once in Royal David’s City, says, “Not in that poor lowly stable, with the oxen standing round, we shall see him; but in heaven, where his saints His throne surround: Christ, revealed to faithful eye, set at God’s right hand on high.”
Merry Christmas, PCA Community.