Nothing is more exciting for high schoolers than getting a taste of college life. Campus tours provide just that — a chance for soon-to-be college students to experience the opportunities that await in higher education. Visiting college campuses is also a vital part of the application process and helps students determine whether or not a school would be their best fit.
Whether you’re looking at local colleges or planning an epic road trip to visit universities across the country, consider these tips for making the most of your time on campus.
Schedule Wisely The best time to visit colleges is throughout junior year. Visits to schools prior to junior year are acceptable, but students mature quickly as they progress towards senior year and preferences can change over time.
Also, consider the season when planning your tours. It may be convenient for families to travel during the summer months, but there is much to be gained from visiting when school is in session. From talking to current students to getting a feel for the energy on campus, visiting during the fall or spring semester is a wise choice.
Come With Questions & Take Notes Prepare questions prior to arriving on campus. College visits can be eventful and it is always difficult for families to remember all the details.
Jot down a list of your questions ahead of time and bring along a notebook or an iPad to take notes while you’re visiting. From programs of interest to activities on campus, there will be no shortage of information to collect.
Stick Around Don’t rush off after your tour concludes. Do some exploring of your own. Sit down for a meal in the dining hall. Visit campus hangout areas to get a feel for the community. Strike up a conversation with students or professors. If there’s a program you’re particularly interested in, explore those facilities or schedule a meeting with the head of the department.
Don’t feel limited to only seeing what the tour covers; spend some time sightseeing and forming your own opinions. Take note of any profound or interesting conversations with faculty or students which could be referenced later when writing application essays for that particular college.
Sit in on a Class Ask in advance if it’s possible to sit in on an actual class or two during your visit. Most college classes are relatively short and the time investment can be immensely helpful as you form your list of pros and cons.
Take note of the class size – is it a large lecture or a small group? What is the professor like? Do students seem engaged or are they dozing off? You know how you learn best, so ask yourself whether you feel motivated by the learning environment.
Get Off Campus This may seem counterproductive at first, but checking out the school’s surrounding area is a smart move. Does the community feel safe? Could you envision yourself living off campus after a year or two of dorm life? What amenities or convenience shops are nearby? If you plan on traveling home for breaks, what is your proximity to the nearest airport?
All of these questions will help you decide if the area is a practical and desirable place to call home for the next four years.
Learn More Interested in learning more about the college preparatory program at GRACE Christian School? Contact us today.
At GRACE, spring air is always filled with hopes, dreams, and excitement as a new graduating class prepares to leave the school community they’ve called home for many years and pursue their passions in college and beyond.
For seniors, it is a time of reflecting back on all that has been achieved and looking ahead at the opportunities that await. As the school year winds down, we caught up with several of our graduates to do just that.
While each student had a unique experience at GRACE, we noticed some common threads. Challenges were met. Faith was deepened. Strong relationships were forged. And skills that will be used for a lifetime were developed.
Building Meaningful Connections
According to Sophia Czekalski, she wouldn’t be where she is today without her teachers and mentors at GRACE.
“I was able to build connections with so many teachers at GRACE, not just academically, but also personally. Señora Welch, who has taught me for five years now, is like a second mother to me. I know that I can come to her with any educational, goal-oriented, or personal problem.
Mrs. Bomgardner, my AP Chemistry teacher, encouraged me to stay in her class and persevere when I considered dropping it after a difficult test. I knew it would take a lot of work, and a lot more studying than other students would have to do, but in the end I was able to succeed in the class, and I can truly say that it gave me better study habits and a drive for education.”
Sophia is headed to Appalachian State University in the fall. As a Diversity Scholar, she will promote unity and diversity on campus through community service. She is also excited about the opportunities she’ll have to study abroad, thanks to her scholarship.
Reaping the Rewards of Hard Work
Sophia was in good company when it came to challenging coursework. Mitchell Haughee took on a hefty load of four AP courses while remaining active on the athletics scene.
“The experience of starting a football program challenged my leadership abilities in ways I never expected. It was a very difficult task, but it felt good after every win to see the payoff of hard work. The camaraderie of the team, coupled with the embrace of the GRACE community, gave me many memories that I am extremely thankful for.”
Though he felt stretched thin at times, Mitchell says his teachers were extremely helpful and invested in his success. He credits Mrs. Jacobs and Mrs. Vanderkin with helping him evaluate life decisions throughout his senior year. A son of two engineers, Mitchell plans to follow in his parents’ footsteps and pursue a degree in Engineering at UNC Charlotte.
Pursuing Long-Held Passions
Most graduates would agree that choosing a college is no small task. There is much that goes into such a monumental decision. Maggie Royce actually applied to 11 colleges, from Europe to the East Coast. After careful consideration, she chose Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC.
“I love so many different things about Wofford: the small class sizes, which I learned from my time at GRACE, were so important, the family feel, and all of the study abroad options.”
Maggie will be studying as a Launch Entrepreneurship Scholar and English major with a concentration in media studies. She started her personal blog in third grade, which was a catalyst for her career in writing for print publications such as Girls Life, Teen Vogue, and Seventeen Magazine.
“My dream, with the help of the Launch program, is to develop a media agency by the time I graduate from college,” she said.
Developing Leadership Skills
Felix Jarvis-Earle shares Maggie’s passion for writing and is headed to North Carolina State University to study Communications Media this fall. After spending 13 years at GRACE, he says the most rewarding part of his experience has been the care and attention the school has given to create student leaders.
“I recall when I asked Mrs. Gill if I could start a newspaper, and, more recently, working with Dr. Inman to start a Latin Club on campus. GRACE has always supported and desired to see their students grow beyond the classroom, which has not only been important for my enjoyment, but has taught me essential leadership skills needed to serve in college.”
Taking Risks to See Rewards
While many students, like Felix, began at GRACE in kindergarten, some joined the class further down the road. Cara Peterson relocated from Connecticut to North Carolina during her junior year. What seemed like a very difficult time for transition was ultimately turned to a rewarding experience. Cara says being on the worship team, playing on the varsity basketball team, getting involved in school plays, and going on a missions trip to Costa Rica has pushed her to new limits.
“I have learned who I am; that I am a leader and a risk taker. I learned that life is all about moving forward, trying new things, and being willing to put yourself in uncomfortable situations.”
Cara’s time in Costa Rica, along with time spent on other service projects at GRACE, influenced her decision to go to Gordon College in Massachusetts and pursue a major that will help her use her knowledge to educate others.
Cultivating a Servant’s Heart
A passion for helping others and making a difference in the world is seen in many of the student leaders at GRACE.
Justin Hegar has spent much of his free time tutoring and mentoring underprivileged elementary aged students through his local church. He is also the founder and director of the Benton Harbor Opportunity Scholarship, which awards a scholarship annually to a high achieving, underprivileged student planning to attend a four-year college.
Between community service, a full academic load, participating in the high school band, and playing on the varsity basketball team, Justin learned a lot about balancing multiple commitments and rising to meet challenges.
“At GRACE, the investment Coach D has made in my life through basketball has impacted my character development the most. He facilitated growth in my faith, my compassion for others, and my leadership abilities while also making me realize I can do anything I set my mind to if I am willing to put the work in.”
In the fall, Justin will attend the University of Pennsylvania to study Mechanical Engineering, and later plans to obtain his MBA.
From Ivy League schools to overseas mission fields, each GRACE graduate will without a doubt make a positive impact on the world.
Making the Most of One Million Minutes
Senior Samuel Hodges put it best:
“Since kindergarten, I’ve spent almost one million minutes here at GRACE.”
He reflected on his parents’ choice to send him to GRACE and how his life has been affected by their investment.
“Other schools might offer similar courses, but here, it’s about who is teaching them, and how they are taught. For me, the teachers are what make GRACE different.”
Samuel says that over the years he’s developed lasting friendships with multiple teachers who have always cared about his life beyond the classroom.
“Because of them, I know I am well prepared for my college experience. Academically and spiritually, I am equipped for life’s challenges.”
Where Will Your Student Spend One Million Minutes?
Choosing a school to partner with you in your child’s education is one of life’s most important decisions. It’s not just about what they’ll be learning, it’s about who they’ll be learning from and mentored by. The teachers at GRACE invest in every student, instilling in them valuable life skills such as Biblical discernment, time management, problem solving, and conflict resolution. As a result, our graduates emerge mature, confident, and ready to make a difference in their world. Schedule Your Tour Today!
Last night, kindergartners graduated. Tonight, it’s the seniors turn at our 15th Commencement Exercises. We wish both groups of students well as they pursue their dreams and seek God’s path for their lives. Recently, we asked a few of our youngest graduates what they wanted to be when they grew up. As it turns out, there are seniors graduating with the same dreams.
Several weeks ago, in response to the school shooting in Florida, the student council leadership asked the school administrative leadership team how GRACE students could participate in the nationwide walkouts taking place on March 14 and April 20. The first date coincided with our Community Service Day. On that morning, several of our groups gathered to pray for our nation and our leaders, and used the time to remember the victims from Stoneman Douglas High School. On the morning of April 20th, at 10:00 AM, a group of students who wished to participate gathered in the school parking lot, led by their student council. During this time, the 2018-2019 student council president, led the group in prayer for our nation, our leaders, and for the families who have been impacted by school shootings. After the prayer, our current student council president, shared a brief message with his peers, encouraging them to be informed, engaged, and active participants in the world around them. His call to action challenged students to form opinions based on the study of facts and to not simply go along with the crowd. He concluded his remarks by encouraging students to not just speak up for causes, but to take action through donating to and serving with the causes they support. As he stated, “these are the most American things you can do — Stand up for what you believe in and get in productive discussions with other people.” The fifteen minute event ended with a closing prayer for our students and our nation.
GRACE Christian School is a loving community that spiritually and academically equips, challenges, and inspires students to impact their world for Christ. In order to impact their world for Christ, our young people will need to do the very things that our student council presidents discussed. There is a quote from Dr. James Emery White, a Charlotte area pastor and author, that captures this idea beautifully. In his book Serious Times, Dr. White writes, “The heart of Jesus’ strategy for transforming the world was unleashing a force of transformed lives…This is how the world will be changed: individuals who have had their lives touched by Christ turning around and touching the lives of others.” We share the above with you so that you will be informed and, we hope, continue this dialog with your students at home. Thank you for the opportunity to partner with you in cultivating a legion of world changers for Christ.
As the pace of technology change continues its rapid march forward and as information about those changes becomes less centralized, it’s a good practice from time to time to address the big picture of how GRACE envisions using technology, both now and in the future.
Our fleet of computers is on overlapping 3-year leases and so every year we have some devices that are coming off of warranty. This gives us an opportunity, every year, to evaluate the effectiveness of our past choices as we plan for the future. For many years, Apple provided an unparalleled product for the education market. However, in the last five years, other manufacturers have been closing what used to be a very large price/performance gap.
We sat down with IT Director, Dana Morrison and asked him some candid questions about the GRACE technology program, the selection of student and teacher devices and his vision for the future.
Question: Why are we using Chromebooks in some grades?
For the 2017-2018 school year, we decided to switch to Chromebooks for students in 4th-6th grades for the following reasons:
Apple has not upgraded the chipsets in their 11” MacBook Airs that we use and we are hearing chatter that the model might be discontinued. While Apple has neither confirmed nor denied this, the possibility was enough to prompt us to look for alternatives should this come to pass.
Apple products have always been and continue to be more expensive than alternative products. When the 1:1 program was started, this expense was justified by the superior product being offered. This justification is no longer true. We can be better stewards of our tuition dollars and invest in other curriculum enhancing tools with the cost savings from replacing a $1,250 device with a $330 device.
The most common product repairs for the MacBooks (liquid spills and screen damage) are not covered by the AppleCare warranty. For example, replacing a screen in an 11” MacBook Air averaged $700+ in out-of-pocket expenses for our families. Replacing a screen in a Chromebook costs under $50.
More and more of the resources we use are online or could be online. With the knowledge that many of our resources can be cloud-driven, the specific device used to access the cloud becomes less important.
Question: Are we moving away from Macs?
As part of our 1:1 program, we have always focused on the advantages that technology can have on learning. It has never been about the brand name on the device, but how that tool can be used to maximize student engagement and content retention in each subject area. There is a benefit to our students having experience on multiple platforms. It allows them to see the similarities and differences and become nimble at learning variants of programs. Students will continue to learn how to use word processors, spreadsheets, video editors, and presentation software to be able to meet the learning objectives of their classes. The brand of those applications is less important than knowing how to effectively use each tool.
Question: Have you had to lower curriculum standards to adapt to Chromebook use?
Chromebooks have not affected what we teach in the classroom. In some cases it affects how content is taught, but the teachers have not weakened their content in an effort to adjust for a change of student devices.
Question: Why don’t we use something with a removable keyboard or something “better” than the basic model selected?
Chromebooks do come in a variety of styles. We have used the Lenovo 11e Chromebook for the 3rd grade keyboarding instruction for several years and with great success. Though there are models with flip/touch screens, our decision has been based on what makes the most sense for effective classroom and home use. As it relates to the flip screens and removable keyboards, more moving parts typically translates into more things to break. Looking ahead, we will continue to research the available options to procure the best device to meet our overall educational goals.
Question: Will students on the Upper Campus switch to Chromebooks in 2018-2019?
There are two very different dynamics that affect technology use on the Upper Campus when compared to the lower campus
Students across multiple grade levels can be enrolled in the same class. This is especially true for math and language classes, but also true in many upper level science classes.
Teachers teach a variety of classes, across multiple grade levels within their subject area with some teachers teaching both middle school and high school courses.
Because of this dynamic, we are waiting at least one year before we make a device change on the Upper Campus to give us additional time to think through all the ripple effects. Due to the dynamics described above, it is likely that the device used by Upper Campus students will need to be the same across all six grade levels. Since some of our MacBooks will be out of warranty for the 2018-2019 school year, we have budgeted extra funds to cover any repair costs that may be needed for those machines.
Within the TAG department, we have begun testing how a replacement device might be deployed. We are working with vendors and want to have all the information we can before making a decision. Regardless of the device selected, you can be assured that we take this transition very seriously and will select a device that best fits the mission and vision of the school.
Question: What’s your long-range vision for technology at GRACE?
It would be easy to think that the discussion on what device we buy is the point. But it’s not. Devices in the hands of students are just one piece of a bigger picture. The real future of technology at GRACE will have roots in solving real world problems.
We were recently awarded a Maclellan Grant to help us as our students develop real-world problem solving skills. Where teamwork, collaboration, and 21st century skills have become “common words” used to describe technology in education, we intend to take our focus to the next level with a fresh and new approach to technology in the classroom. Our computer science curriculum will now include the following elements as part of this vision.
In our Introduction to Java elective class, students will be given the opportunity to work collaboratively on building drones and programming them in Java from scratch. Teams of students will work with a budget to make purchases, design their drone, 3D print the drone chassis, debug circuit control issues, and test their product.
In our Computer Build / A+ Certification elective class, students will build a high end computer to be used in the computer lab. Students will have hands on roles to play as they spec their computer, purchase the parts, build the computer, and test it.
Our Introduction to Python elective class will focus on the Raspberry Pi product with students taking a closer look at circuit design and sensors. From their research, they will use Raspberry Pi’s and programming to solve a variety of problems.
Some of the tasks outlined above are already happening as we empower students to take initiative in our existing computer science classes. We already have students working on a sample machine for the computer lab and another student working on building a drone from scratch to use as a demonstration model for next year.
Every year we are adding more opportunities for our students to gain experience with technology, coding, and computer science principles. Already
we have introduced programming logic all the way down to Kindergarten, have a Girls Who Code club for 6th graders as well as a co-ed technology club
our technology curriculum is designed to seamlessly transition our Lower Campus 6th grade students into Upper Campus 7th grade Computer Science classes
our Upper Campus computer science classes offer “stretch” projects to keep advanced students on a continual learning path
To conclude, we desire to place our students in a position where they can leverage their knowledge and skills for their future. We want to get out of the way and let your students become what God desires them to be.
In the days after the tragic shootings in Parkland, Florida, I shared a response on behalf of the school. In that note, I promised to address security on our campuses, and since then, I have spent a great deal of time considering what to share about this topic. I have struggled with the appropriate balance between transparency and the liability that such transparency might furnish. As I have considered what to write, one passage of Scripture continues to come to mind:
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” I Peter 5:6-9
Peter’s words are as relevant today as when he wrote them as we consider the evil that continually surrounds us. In addition to the warning, he reminds us that we are not alone in dealing with this challenge or the evil prevalent throughout the world. This passage commands us to be sober and vigilant. This is the driving thought as we consider the safety of everyone that comes onto our campus.
In light of the call to be sober (clear-headed) and vigilant (alert, attentive, cautious, and observant), several actions have been taken to improve campus safety for our students and staff. These changes include, but are not limited to the following:
The exterior doors on both campuses are locked and only accessible through fobs or keypads.
On both campuses, guests are required to submit identification that is scanned through the Raptor Security System, providing the school with a rapid background check.
Security cameras have been added on both campuses to provide increased visibility of our doorways and property and can be accessed by our administrators at any time.
On the upper campus, the rearrangement of the front desk allowed for the installation of a large screen monitor that provides visibility of the main doors on that campus. The glass treatments in the reception area allow for individuals to see out, but not for guests to see in.
On the lower campus, security camera images are monitored throughout the day by the administrative team.
In the Activity Building, the solid entrance door was replaced with one that has a window to allow staff to see outside the building.
The school continues the practice of monthly drills and periodic staff emergency training.
This year, we required staff and student drivers to have identifying stickers on their windshields to help us track people on campus.
We have been intentional about partnering with our local police forces (Cary on the Upper Campus and Raleigh on the Lower Campus) and they have responded with an increased presence on both campuses.
Earlier this year, we created a school safety committee to review and monitor our current practices, as well as make recommendations for changes.
The above points provide a brief overview of some of the steps that have been taken to protect the students and adults on our campuses. There are other things that take place that go unnoticed, but are ways we work to protect our community. For instance, last summer, we allowed our lower campus to be used by the local police as a training facility. These officers participated in drills throughout the building, developing response strategies for different scenarios. We will continue to seek opportunities to connect with local law enforcement agencies in an effort to help them have familiarity with our facilities.
Even with the things shared above, we know there is need for more work to be done. We need to increase the amount of training for our staff and students on how to respond in case of an emergency. As a parent, you are aware of the unique safety challenges our community faces. On the lower campus, the shared property with the church provides challenges in monitoring who comes into the parking lot. The upper campus is very open, with students traveling between our two buildings. To that end, we have coordinated a visit with a team of agents from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (NCSBI). In April, these agents will review our current security practices and procedures, as well as provide recommendations on how to improve these practices. These recommendations and the work done by our Safety Committee will provide us with a great strategy for improving campus security.
As a GRACE parent, you can help us with campus security in a variety of ways:
When visiting either campus, always check in at the front desk.
Please speak to your students about the importance of not opening doors for unknown individuals and of the importance of not propping open doors in any campus building.
On the Lower Campus, please use the signs provided by the school when picking up your child in carpool.
When on campus, report any suspicious individuals, behavior, or vehicles.
As I mentioned in the original email, the more the individual members of our community connect and get to know one another, the greater the safety of our overall community.
Please cover our campus in prayer every day.
I began this letter by citing a passage from I Peter 5:6-9. I think it only appropriate to conclude the letter with the passages immediately following those, which provides one of the most beautiful blessings in all of Scripture:
“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and dominion forever and ever.” I Peter 5:10-11
Earlier this week, at a time when we should have been focused on the solemn commemoration of Ash Wednesday or the pageantry of the Winter Olympics or the fun of Valentine’s Day, we instead, were once again joined together in outrage and horror by news of another school shooting. This time, the tragedy took place in Parkland, Florida. In the almost twenty years since the Columbine High School massacre, there have been too many headlines announcing another tragic school shooting. According to an article in this week’s Washington Post, “at least 170 primary and secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus.” Some media outlets use a much higher number; others a smaller one. Regardless of the exact number, all would agree that news of another school shooting has become much, much too common. My greatest concern is that we, as a culture, have become numb to tragedy. Amidst the immediate debates and discussions about gun control, governmental response, or mental illness, let us not lose sight of the tragic loss of seventeen lives, and the shattered families grieving in south Florida.
In the aftermath of these tragedies, it has become common practice for schools like ours to do two things. The first is to issue calls of prayer and support for those impacted by the tragedy. This is entirely appropriate since, as followers of Christ, we have a responsibility to mourn with those who mourn, as Paul so eloquently shared in Romans 12. So, we will pray for those directly impacted by this most recent tragedy and for our nation as a whole. We believe in the power of prayer and we ask that in this time of mourning, God would provide a comfort, support, and peace that can only come from Him.
The second thing schools often do is to provide school families with information concerning safety measures in place to prevent such a tragedy or to address how the school would respond if such an event were to take place on site. This is entirely appropriate and something that I will share with our GRACE community, but not in this communication. Please be assured that we review our policies and procedures frequently in an effort to provide a safe environment for our staff and students. We have a School Safety Committee that exists for this purpose alone. However, instead of focusing here on current plans and procedures, what I would like to consider is the important aspect of preventing another tragedy. Our mission statement opens by stating, “GRACE Christian School is a loving community.” With all of our drills, security cameras, professional development sessions committed to security, and other appropriate means of providing a safe environment, our greatest source of protection is our loving community. In many cases, school violence is the result of a disconnected, disheartened, and desperate individual lashing out at those around him. Being part of a loving community means that we actively seek to make sure each child is known, valued and loved. This is our sincere desire for each child, every day. This means investing in the lives of the students who walk our hallways in more ways than simply teaching lessons. It means that we support families in times of crisis. It also means that we develop trusting relationships with parents. Sometimes honest dialogue means that we have to have difficult and uncomfortable conversations, but this is what we are called to do as part of a loving community.
Recognizing the value of having candid, honest dialogue, as is age appropriate, I encourage you to speak to your children about the importance of sharing concerns they may have about a peer or a situation and bringing it to your attention. Specifically, if a young person is sharing thoughts of self-harm or harm to others, either in person or via social media, it is imperative that students understand the importance of sharing that information with an adult and the school administration. Likewise, if you, as an adult, find yourself in a situation where you fear that a threat of violence could affect your child or any child at our school, you must contact the proper authorities and/or the school administration. It is impossible to overstate the value of this type of proactive intervention.
The Association of Christian Schools International, one of our accrediting bodies, provided us with the following resources to share with our families: Children and Crisis: COPE Leads to Hope and Teachers and Kids and Crisis. My hope is that these resources may provide you with some guidance for important conversations with your children. As always, thank you for the opportunity to serve your family and work with your children. It is a tremendous blessing and responsibility that we do not take for granted.
On Sunday, February 4th from 2:00-3:30pm, the PTF will host clinical psychologist Dr. Doug Davis for a program on how parents can help their kids develop a healthy relationship with gaming. RSVP Link for Video Gaming Seminar
Computer gaming is everywhere: at home on consoles and PCs and traveling with us on our devices. It’s no wonder that gaming can become problematic for some kids, taking up too much time, and detracting from other important aspects of life. Clinical psychologist Dr. Doug Davis has been gaming his whole life. He is well-versed in the up-and-downsides of screen time. He will share how parents can help children, tweens, and teens develop a healthy relationship with gaming. Dr. Davis will point out risk-factors that make some kids more vulnerable to developing unhealthy habits, and advise on how to avoid or deal with the most common pitfalls. Finally, he will discuss how to decide when a minor problem is becoming a major one, what to try to get things under control, and when to seek help.
Dr. Doug Davis, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist with undergraduate degrees from the UNC-Chapel Hill. He earned a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. Throughout his career, Dr. Davis has built a broad background of experience, bringing together developmental, cognitive behavioral, and family systems among other approaches to understanding people and helping with change. He has played many roles in the lives of young people, including coach, mentor, teacher, tutor and therapist. Dr. Davis has worked in the Triangle area since 2005. He currently provides individual, family, and group therapeutic services to children, adolescents, young adults, parents/caregivers, and families. For more information, including treatment specialties, please see dougdavispsych.com. Contact him at 919.749.4210 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
My first education job was as a history teacher. To this day, I love finding odd or little known stories in history, one of my favorite things about teaching the subject. A few weeks ago, I came across an article about Do You Hear What I Hear and its connection to the Cuban Missile Crisis. This led me to read about several other Christmas songs and their background.
Do You Hear What I Hear — Noel Regney was born in France and educated at the best music schools in Europe. When the Nazis took over France during WW2, he was forced to serve in the German army. Regney began working for the French Underground while serving as a Nazi soldier, an incredibly stressful and dangerous situation. In one instance, he knowingly led a group of German soldiers into an ambush, getting shot himself in the process, allegedly in order to provide more cover for his role as a spy. Imagine the emotional toll of being in this type of situation. Shortly after the ambush incident, he deserted from the German army and spent much of the rest of the war in hiding. After the war, he worked in France briefly before moving to New York City where he served as a songwriter for TV shows and commercials. In October 1962, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, he was asked to write a Christmas song. Imagine being in this position — come up with a Christmas jingle while everyone in the country is consumed with the the threat of nuclear war. In this environment, working with his wife, they created Do You Hear What I Hear, which they intended to be a prayer for peace in the middle of the Cold War. “A star dancing in the night with a tale as big as a kite” might have been meant to represent something much more menacing. Here is the last stanza:
Said the king to the people everywhere
Listen to what I say
Pray for peace people everywhere
Listen to what I say
The child, the child
Sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light
O Holy Night — This song was written in 1847 by a French poet, Placide Cappeau, when asked by the local parish priest to compose a Christmas poem. After writing the poem, the author decided it would be better as a song, and asked a Jewish composer friend to set the poem to music. The song became quite popular and spread throughout French churches. However, years later, when Cappeau renounced the church and declared himself a socialist, the song was officially banned by the French Catholic church. The ban had little effect as the song was already very popular among churches throughout Europe. Shortly after, American abolitionists fighting against slavery helped spread the song throughout the United States. Think of the third stanza being sung in the United States on the brink of the Civil War, “Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother; and in His name all oppression shall cease.”
Joy to the World — This song was written in the early 1700s by Isaac Watts, but was not intended to be a Christmas hymn, but rather, a song about the second coming of Christ. The lyrics were based on Watts’ interpretation of Psalm 98:4-9 which opens, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.” While it is interesting to think through the lyrics with the idea of the song being about the second coming, the central idea of the song does work for the incarnation as well — “Joy to the World, the Lord has come! Let Earth receive her king!”
All of these songs are fascinating on their own, but like many things in life, they take on more meaning when you look into them more deeply. In these three songs, we are reminded that God works in ways we do not fully comprehend.
In Do You Hear What I Hear, a man who experienced the horror of war first-hand, penned a beautiful prayer for peace, hoping for a better future for all of our children.
In O Holy Night, a socialist poet and a Jewish musician, two men who had no connection or commitment to the Christian faith, combined their talents to create a powerful song that celebrates “The Thrill of Hope” that comes in the form of the Christ child.
In Joy to the World, a hymn intended to honor the triumph of the second coming of Christ has become one of the most recognized of all Christmas songs. Now, knowing the background of its origin, when I hear the song in the future, I will think not only on the joy of the incarnation, but also of the incredible promise of our King’s return.
As we prepare for the Christmas season and all of the busyness that may entail, I encourage you to stop and think about the incredible way that God may be moving in your life and the lives around you, and never lose sight of the incredible, awe-inspiring, life-changing message of Hope that came to us in the form of the Christ child. A hope that continues on still today.