A gift with no price tag: This Christmas, in many cultures across the world, people will be receiving gifts intended to communicate genuine love and affection to those near and dear to them. Here in Chattanooga, Tennessee, at no cost to taxpayers, students in Hamilton County public schools are receiving a life-changing gift to which no real price tag can be ascribed. This is the rare privilege of having access to Bible history classes as an optional Related Arts elective. Bible history, however, is not just a Christmas gift. The generosity of this community makes this rare treasure available for the full academic school year to over 3,500 middle and high school students annually.
A gift that is the real deal: The gift of being able to study from the Bible during the school day comes not with a shiny “To” and “From” label. It comes with the timeless inscribed words of a much larger story of love and hope that has impacted thousands of generations, and that is still changing lives today. Through this story, many students are discovering this love and hope, and many are realizing in a new way that their lives have tremendous value, meaning, and worth. This gift of Bible history for students is not a knock-off of the real thing, or someone else’s interpretation of the real thing. It is the real deal because the Bible itself is their textbook.
A free gift to humanity: In many Western cultures this time of year, Christmas tree branches adorned with glimmering lights drape over gifts placed beneath the tree, many of which are attractively tied up with ribbons and bows. Yet, in Bible history, students are “untying" something much deeper. One might call these the “ribbons” of loving correction found through a deeper understanding of choices and consequences recounted in the narrative of old, yet that still apply to us today. While the Bible is providing students the wisdom of guidance and direction, it is also a free gift to humanity that offers young minds a wiser path and a better way. Furthermore, Bible history classes are also helping guide many public school youth through “tough stuff”. The encouragement of the Bible's words is helping kids hold things together when many of them feel as though their lives are unraveling. Bible history isn't only helping students navigate "tough stuff", one seventh grade girl exclaimed, "Bible history is putting kids on the right path.”
The gift of grace: In a Bible history class, you won’t find students ripping open shiny bright Christmas paper. Instead, students are “peeling back the paper” of values, morals, and ethics. And, in contrast to how a younger child might close his eyes to guess what's inside a present, metaphorically, the eyes of Bible history students are being opened to a new perspective. In Bible history electives, youth between the pivotal ages of about 12 and 18 are thumbing through the soft pages of the Bible only also to discover the amazing reality that the Bible contains stories of people just like them! They are learning about broken people who messed up over and over again, and who made wrong choices and poor decisions, yet who were shown abundant mercy, grace, and forgiveness. This in turn helps students learn how to grant this same grace to others when they themselves are wronged. One tenth grade boy shared, "Bible history has taught me to forgive others," and a senior student recently confessed, "Bible history teaches beautiful life lessons and has taught me to be nicer." All of these things are encouraging to hear.
The gift of the Christmas story: Bible history students have also been learning of the Christmas story and the narrative of the birth of Jesus Christ -- many for the very first time. A broad education includes providing students the opportunity to understand the meaning behind all America's nationally recognized holidays, and Christmas is no exception. More and more, Bible history teachers are also discovering that a vast number of students know little to nothing about the recount of the birth of Christ. One tenth grade boy in Bible history said, “I never knew anything about Jesus.” A sixth grade girl also recently exclaimed, “I hope this class continues on forever and ever because the babies in daycare need to grow up and hear about new things like this.” So, as you read this humble blog, if this Christmas story of the birth of Jesus Christ is also new or unfamiliar to you, we encourage you to find a Bible and perhaps read it to discover it for yourself.
The Ultimate Gift: This Christmas, whether the story of the incarnation of Christ is new or old to you, at Bible in the Schools we believe every single person, including every public school student, should have the chance to “grow up and hear it”. Therefore, it is appropriate at this “most wonderful time of the year”, that we express our genuine affection for all of you who give to support this great mission. Thank you for sharing the gifts you have been given to make sure students in our public schools have the opportunity to unwrap The Ultimate Gift of potentially making this Christmas story relevant in their lives as well. Thank you.