I just finished putting together our Christmas tree. "Putting together" signals that we did not forage through the forest and find the perfect "real" tree and cut it down. Rather I assembled 9with the usual stops and starts that such processes engender for me) the tree we have had for quite a number of years. Then Lois fluffed it out, and wrapped some presents, and put them under the tree. No decorations yet, except for some stray tinsel left over from last year. "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas ..."
In the background "The Fellowship of the Ring" played (extended edition). We have had Christmas music on for some weeks, so I didn't mind something different. I enjoy the weeks before Christmas: Advent, we call it. Anticipation. Hope of Christ's Return, and memory of the baby's birth. "All poor men and humble, All lame men who stumble, Come haste, nor feel ye afraid." But that's only one side of life for a teacher.
At the same time the semester winds down. The rhythm is similar each year. A frenzy of final assignments leaves students pressing, almost gasping, and all of us praying for strength. Then papers are done, exams are written, and faculty endure the pressure to finish grading and assessment for the semester.
I deal with those pressures easily enough. But there's another part of Advent that I find more difficult. Each semester ending means that people leave, and I walk up and down the empty corridors. The end of the second semester is much worse. The hardest day of the year for me is the day after graduation, when I go in to a school empty of students. Advent, and Easter, have their specific Christian meanings, to which I add the meaning of leaving.
Last night we met with our pastor to talk about the process of renewing our membership at SMC. (We had moved to a church plant in town for a couple of years; with its passing, we have moved back to SMC.) As seven of us talked about what church membership means to each of us, one stated that she has been part of four churches in her life. I sat there thinking through the churches I have belonged to (or attended regularly): 13, I think. It's hard to keep track.
Perhaps my peripatetic past leaves me more sensitive to the transitory nature of the school year's rhythm. It is not a bad thing. It is, I believe, a profoundly good thing. The past is passing, and the Return comes nearer. But transitions still leave me feeling shaky.