Anticipating The Birth

Rogier_van_der_Weyden_Annunciation_Louvre_Visit

 

The Advent is about celebrating and anticipation of the arrival of Emmanuel, Jesus Christ. It uses a Christmas wreath to set the stage for the Christian holiday. The imagery is used to help retain the focus of Christmas. The Advent wreaths are circular, representing God’s infinite love, and are usually made of evergreen leaves, which “represent the hope of eternal life brought by Jesus Christ.” Within the Advent wreath are candles that generally represent the four weeks of the Advent season as well as “the light of God coming into the world through the birth of Jesus Christ. Each of the candles has its own significance. Individually, the candles specifically symbolize the Christian concepts of hope (week one), peace (week two), joy (week three) and love (week four). Many Advent wreaths also have a white candle in the center to symbolize the arrival of Christ. According to tradition, this center white candle lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Advent-WreathLast Sunday, December 3, was the first week of Advent. On the first Sunday of Advent, the first purple candle is lit. This candle is typically called the “Prophecy Candle” in remembrance of the prophets, primarily Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ:

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Emmanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14, NIV)

This first candle represents hope or expectation in anticipation of the coming Messiah.
This upcoming Sunday, the second Sunday of Advent, the second purple candle is lit. This candle typically represents love. Some traditions call this the “Bethlehem Candle,” symbolizing Christ’s manger:

“This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12, NIV)

Normally, I avoid liturgy and the man-made trappings of the faith. However, this tradition has such beautiful imagery and helps me properly prepare for this blessed season. Will you join me this week in meditating on the significance of what that baby wrapped up laying in the feed trough means to the world? Celebrating with an Advent wreath during the weeks before Christmas is a great way for Christian families to keep Christ at the center of Christmas, and for parents to teach their children the true meaning of Christmas.

Sources:
Kellner, K. A. H. (1908). Heortology: A History of the Christian Festivals from Their Origin to the Present Day Kegan Paul Trench Trubner & Co Limited. p. 430
https://web.archive.org/web/20111119020903/http://worship.calvin.edu/resources/resource-library/advent-resource-guide/. Retrieved December 1, 2016


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A Protest That Changed The World

A World Class Education

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World Class Education

head-of-school-imageThe United States is spending twice as much on education today than we did 20 years ago. Of course we have 20% more people than we did then (U.S. Census), and we have a much more diverse society than most of the others. However, the fundamental difference between the U.S. and other countries is raising eyebrows. U.S. students ranked 17 th in science, 25 th in math, and 14 th in reading in the latest data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the most widely used global assessment of student achievement. Who’s beating the U.S. in these important categories – and how?

As I had mentioned in my previous blog, Vivien Stewart in her book, A World Class Education , looks at five countries—Singapore, Canada, Finland, China, and Australia. These are nations where students are doing significantly better on global assessments than students in the U.S. despite differences in the demographics, political systems and cultural contexts, there are some common policies and practices that drive success. Understanding how other countries are succeeding can offer insights that help us do a better job here in the U.S. (Stewart, 2012)

As Stewart points out, even a small improvement in the skills of a nation’s labor force can have a big impact on its economy. What kind of input could a mid-size Lehigh Valley Christian school have? Although we are located in a small part of Eastern Pennsylvania, we are in a global market. And, in a global market where companies can find well-educated workers in a growing number of countries —often at lower-cost— the U.S. will face greater competition if this trend continues. Our students are no longer competing against just within the borders, they are competing against billions around the world. Salem Christian School envisions that its students are impacting the world in whatever vocation they find themselves. To do this they need to rise above and compete with the best of their peers. Salem Christian School has the similar challenges to nations trying to rise to the top and compete strongly within the global market.
Finland has demonstrated a strong commitment to education and its results demonstrate this commitment. Finland is an interesting example because as recently as 1970, only 40 percent of Finnish adults held a high school diploma. Today, its students rank among the top on global assessments of student learning. Current parents (Partner Survey, 2017) and prospective parents (Barna, 2017) desire strong academics in a nurturing and spiritually rich environment.

Stewart points out, one key to Finland’s success was the decision in 1979 to require a two-year master’s degree for all teachers, even those teaching primary school. Teachers are trained to spot students who aren’t doing well early on, and each school has a multidisciplinary team of education professionals available to support students and help them catch up. In addition to the number of teachers pursuing or have obtained graduate degrees, Salem Christian School has invested in professional development significantly. Teachers are engaged in Professional Learning Communities, continuing educational opportunities, seminars, and practitioner research. There is a significant dedication to the development of the teachers at Salem Christian School.

Similar to Finland, we also did away with traditional structure and replaced it with a more flexible approach that encourages creativity and problem solving, individualized learning, and a wider range of academic and vocational options. The elementary has brought in Daily Five method in language arts and is researching guided practice in mathematics. The high school has developed block scheduling, dual enrollment, Math Lab, and other creative and innovative methods to ensure there is a strong liberal arts program. Additionally, the school has developed things such as Middle School challenge, First Fridays, and other school cultural events to expand the learning and engage students through an infusion of fun activities.

The modernization of our education system has helped put us in the ranks of the most innovative and prosperous in the Lehigh Valley and Northeast region. We hope to make a significant impact with our small portion.
Like Finland, Singapore decided that its future lay in tapping its only resources, human capital. In the Singapore system, all the key elements work closely together to produce continuous improvement. This has been the direction Salem Christian has taken over the last few years. It must be purposeful and intentional. It must fit the mission and vision. Similar to Singapore, we have introduced innovative and flexible learning choices for students. This is especially noticeable in our Language Arts program and you can see this developing through our research in guided instruction in math. Singapore has a policy called “teach less, learn more” that’s designed to encourage more innovative curricula and use of classroom time. This is the movement that we are taking. How can we ensure that our students are learning? Students should be the center of the classroom, not a system or teacher. It will be exciting to see how we use data and research to learn how to continue our path towards this goal.

I agree with every expert I have read that the quality of student learning is only as good as the quality of the teachers. This requires investing in strong evaluation and development systems that involve teachers from the start, include multiple measures of effective teaching, and that fuse teacher evaluations with high-quality professional development. This happens behind the scenes at Salem Christian School.

As an administrator it is exciting to help our teachers reach their goals. Each year (or continued from previous years) the teachers articulate their goals for teaching and learning. Each classroom visit, evaluation, and professional development is primarily focused on these goals. This focus, like in Finland and Singapore, will help Salem Christian School demonstrate what a world class education is. Moreover, what a world class education is that is wholly developed, because it is infused with the Gospel. After all, the Gospel changes everything!

Sources:
Barna and ACSI Research, 2017

Ng, P.T. Educ Res Policy Prac (2008) 7: 5. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10671-007-9042-

Partner Survey 2017

Stewart, Vivien. World-Class Education : Learning from International Models of Excellence and Innovation, (2012). ASCD, Alexandria, VA.


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A Protest That Changed The World

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The Protest That Changed The World

martinluther
October 31 of this year was a 500 year anniversary of a momentous occasion in human history. It was 500 years ago that Martin Luther posted his protests of the Catholic church failings. From that simple protest that would likely get him into serious trouble, possibly including a painful death, Martin Luther began a movement of thought that has shaped the world.

Martin Luther is a hero of the church! The miracle that set Martin Luther on his path is an amazing part of Church history. The event which radically changed the course of Luther’s life took place near Stotterheim, Germany on July 2, 1505.

Luther had recently completed a Master’s degree and started his law studies at the University of Erfurt. While he was on his way back to Erfurt after having visited his parents, Luther was caught in a terrible thunder storm a few hours outside of his home at the university when lightning struck near him and he was thrown to the ground by the air pressure it created. At this moment he decided to succumb to God’s calling to dedicate himself to serving in the Church. To his father’s disgust and anger, Luther honored his solemn promise; he had one last party with university friends on July 16 and the next day he entered the Black Monestary in Erfurt to become a monk. Little did Martin Luther know, he was just beginning to fulfill what God called him to do.

He later was called to return the Church to proper teaching and practices. Luther rejected several teachings and practices of the only Catholic Church of the time. He strongly disputed the view of indulgences. He knew that freedom from God’s punishment for sin could not be purchased with money. Luther proposed an academic debate of the practice and efficacy of indulgences in his Ninety-five Theses of 1517.

This protest was met with anger from the powers of the day, Pope Leo X and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Martin Luther refused to renounce all of his writings as was demanded by the Pope and the Emperor. Thus, at the Diet of Worms in 1521 Martin Luther was excommunicated by the Pope and condemned as an outlaw by the Emperor. Catholic church teaching stated that excommunication meant that the person was destined to hell. And outlaw status stripped him of any societal privilege and required severest prison if not death.

Martin Luther was so convinced that Scripture taught differently, he risked his life for the Truth. Luther believed and taught that salvation and, consequently, eternal life are not earned by good deeds but are received only as the free gift of God’s grace through the believer’s faith in Jesus Christ as redeemer from sin. Furthermore, the Church cannot take this away. They may take his freedom and his eternal life; but, he must teach the Truth as God had revealed in Scripture.

His theology challenged the authority and office of the Pope by teaching that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge from God. Luther insisted on Christian or Evangelical as the only acceptable names for individuals who professed Christ. He always wanted unity for the sake of Christ, but he was not going to sacrifice Truth at any cost.

His translation of the Bible into the German vernacular (instead of Latin) made it more accessible to understand and read for the common folk. For the first time God’s Word was able to be studied and understood by anyone who could read and did not need a priest or clergy to do it for them. This event had a tremendous impact on both the church and western culture. It fostered the development of a standard version of languages, added several principles to the art of translation, and influenced the writing of an English translation, the Tyndale Bible. His hymns influenced the development of singing in Protestant churches that led to today’s praise teams. His marriage to a former nun, set a model for the practice of clerical marriage, allowing Protestant clergy to marry. From this simple protest, nailing 95 needed reforms on a church door, came Protestantism that shaped the world and influenced the colonies, that led to the individual rites of citizens, which led to the formation of the United States.

What would the world look like if Martin Luther did not succumb to God’s calling?

Sources:
Brecht, Martin (2015) Martin Luther: His road to Reformation, 1483–1521. Retrieved November 1, 2017

Maier, P. L., & Copeland, G. (2004). Martin Luther: a man who changed the world. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Pub. House.

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SalemChristianSchoolAuction

Celebration and Silent Auction

 Celebration Party and Silent Auction

Saturday,  November 11, 2017

Reserve your spot now! 

 

Celebration Event Button
Be sure to click and make your bid!

 

Come celebrate God’s awesome provision with us at a casual block party BBQ!

 


 

5:30 – 8:00 (Doors open and silent auction tables open at 5pm)

5:30 pm First dinner seating

6:00 pm Celebration Ceremony – New building ribbon cutting, prayer of dedication, Vision Award

6:30 pm Second dinner seating

7:00 pm Silent auction closes

7:15 pm Dessert table opens


Menu

  • Freshly popped popcorn
  • Your choice of brisket or pulled pork sandwich- Gehman’s BBQ
  • Mac and cheese
  • Assorted Drinks
  • Assorted Desserts

Bring your friends! Bring the whole family – there’s fun for everyone!

 

Silent auction – all your favorites plus plenty of new and exciting items to bid on.

Balloon game – buy a balloon and choose wisely – you could be a winner!

Cupcake Wars – be a taste-tester and help decide who wins!

Plus a selfie station, balloon artist, face painting, and tours of the new building!


Reserve your spot now! 

Adults $20

Students (age 4-18) $10

Children 3 and under are free!

RSVP here as soon as possible – limited reservations are available! Call the school office with any questions or email tberes@salemchristian.org.

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