Advent: How Christ Illuminates the Classroom

The season of Advent is a time to pause and take a “long loving look at the (reality)” of life.1 This voluntary pause gives people the grace to breathe, honestly, reflect upon the year that has transpired, and prepare for the new liturgical year underway. For four weeks, Christians wait in darkness, gingerly illuminating the Advent light that moves them towards a Christological moment. With the birthing of the Christ child, God’s grace illuminates all Creation and becomes alive in the essence of all Creation. As Teilhard de Chardin writes, “by virtue of the Creation and, still more, of the Incarnation, nothing… is profane for those who know how to see. On the contrary, everything is sacred…”2 This sacred light of Incarnation that we are called to step into during the seasons of Advent and Christmas carries forth in all things, and it is the work of education, like the Advent wreath, to illuminate the minds of others out of the dark isolation of ignorance.

As we consider a holistic approach to Incarnational Pedagogies, we must consider the light that is alive within and beyond the classroom. For some, the classroom might be the greatest source of light in their darkened lives. For others, the classroom, due to its historical roots of systemic oppression, might be their source of darkness. Regardless, the role of the teacher ought to recognize the “inner potential of each student”3 and seek to help them “establish conditions for peace and justice at all levels”4 of their lives.

We live in a Eucharistic world. A world that is blessed and broken. A world that is divide and neglects to see our shared and sacred union. Advent allows people to sit in the broken spaces of our lives and discover the blessings rooted even in the darkness. By taking a “holistic view of the body, mind, and spirit as an integral whole created, by, and in a living relationship with, God and [God’s] creation,” we can begin a healing process for ourselves and others.5

Human beings are relational. No person is separated from a whole—separate from a family, community, culture, or larger context. As educators, we have a role and responsibility to bridge the gap between darkness and light, separate and communal, blessed and broken. As educators light new lessons for their classroom and witness the revelatory moments of learning that occur for their students and themselves, they recognize that “everything is holy and can reveal meaning” because through the Incarnation, “everything is interconnected in a web of meaning.”6 Classrooms, like a human person, are not perfect. Yet, in the interconnected space within a classroom, “it is possible to cultivate an attitude of compassion” that reminds one another of “our shared human condition.”7

This long, loving, pause of Advent is a reminder for educators to recognize where Christ will come alive in their classrooms and to witness the mystery of Christ alive in the lives of each person who is fortunate enough to light up that space.

  1. Burghardt, Walter J. “Contemplation: A Long Loving Look at the Real.” Church Winter 1989 (n.d.).
  2. Chardin, Teilhard de. The Divine Milieu, 66. New York, NY: Harper & Row, Publisher, 1965.
  3. Schreiner, Peter, Esther Banev, and Simon Oxley, eds. Holistic Education Resource Book: Learning and Teaching in an Ecumenical Context, 26. New York: Waxmann Münster, n.d.
  4. Schreiner, Holistic Education, 21.
  5. Schreiner, Holistic Education, 75.
  6. Moore, Mary Elizabeth. “Incarnational Teaching.” In Teaching from the Heart: Theology and Educational Method, 93. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991.
  7. Schreiner, Holistic Education, 74.

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