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A Thrill of Hope

I am especially fond of camellias. My aunt has one of these evergreen shrubs that is almost as old as me. Each year for as long as I can remember this bush, which is as tall as her house, begins to be filled with small, tightly wrapped buds beginning in late summer. Then the wait begins. The beautiful flowers on this japonica do not appear until the middle of January. The very same tightly wrapped tiny buds that started their formative journey in the heat of an Angelina county summer burst into radiant ruffled wonders just in time to usher in rain, freezing temperatures and the gray skies of winter bringing a respite from the cold and dark days of the season with their vibrant red blooms.

During the nearly half of a year it takes for these buds to reach maturity, there are many threatening and harmful factors that affect the survival and energy needed for the flowers to open. According to Southern Living Magazine’s plant guide, lack of water during extreme heat, mite infestation, poor soil nutrition or heavy rains on poorly drained soil may cause bud drop in these long lived plants. Yet, the beauty that has been stored inside the surviving buds endures and graces the wintery landscape when most other flowering plants are dormant or can’t survive the temperature.

Listening to Christmas songs a few days ago, the inspiring lyrics of Cantique de Noel, a popular holiday song composed by Adolphus Adams in 1847 and translated into English by John Sullivan Dwight in 1855 resonated with me as if I was hearing it for the first time.

The words “the weary world rejoices” suddenly became more meaningful to me. I reflected on the weariness of the world today and the great need for renewal and relief to arrive with this Christmas season.

We. like the camellias, need good light and protection to perform our best. Our spirits seek assurance that although there are stressful and concerning days we are experiencing, we have the ability to look forward to a future with improved health and a return to some normalcy within our daily lives. We want to know there are better days ahead.

The excitement and genuine happiness I get to share with our staff and students during this season is a delightful experience. It is evident the spirit of Christmas is alive and well in our school. First graders are collecting coins for the Salvation Army as part of their math lesson on counting money. Kindergarten students are acting out customs of Christmas Around the World and traveling the hallways to share good cheer dressed in character for various cultural traditions. Third graders are memorizing the account of the first Christmas according to the gospel of Luke for presentation in a virtual Christmas card for our community. Our Toys for Tots collection box runneth over and the Student Council is sponsoring a food drive with a donut party awarded to the class with the largest contribution.

Certainly, our students are sharing the outward signs of hearts filled with the joy and gladness of this holiday season. Even while experiencing challenging days, love and light prevail. Goodwill and thoughtful actions overcome apprehension and uncertainty when the focus is on becoming part of a shared landscape with our families and communities celebrating the beauty of Christmas.The buds tightly formed come to maturity and open to brighten the days.

We should each take time in our day to day existence, which at times may appear dark and gloomy, to intentionally look for the bright and joyful blossoms in our lives. Let’s remember the joy found in the winter flowering camellias and experience what Adams described in his lyrics as “a thrill of hope” and with that the weary world can rejoice.

Merry Christmas from St. Cyprian’s Episcopal School!

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