I have before me a six year old's rendering of a giraffe. Its body has the shape of a large tennis ball, yellow with streaks of orange. Its neck reminds one of a long rigid cane cut from a Louisiana sugar field. A banana seems to serve for a tail, and four large green tree trunks for legs. It is all together delightful. Even more delightful were the smile and kindness with which it was presented to me. It is a wonderful piece of play and even more wonderful that a bright-eyed child would, without vulgar display, freely present such a gift to her former principal. There is a tinge of grace in the play, the picture, and the presentation. Such graces shape the heart of a child. Such graces make for a hint of Christmas every day.
The dark sky had already paled a little in its frame of cherry-pink chintz. Eternity framed in domesticity. Never mind. One had to frame it in something, to see it at all.
Jan Struther, Three Stockings
Chintz is a shiny cotton fabric upon which is printed a floral pattern, a warm and suitable frame for an infinite sky. And, it seems a good metaphor for Christmas, the infinite, ineffable God made flesh, a baby held by His mother. This reminds me of a rather striking concept, learned during my days as a theology student - obediential potency. In its broadest sense obediential potency means the openness of every creature to the Creator's power to effect in it something beyond the powers of ordinary natural causes. By virtue of its very existence, every object of creation is positively ordered in accordance with God's power to act in it and through it, having the potential to accomplish a specific divine end. Chintz possesses the potential to both frame an infinite sky and be a divine instrument revealing something of eternity. In cloth and sky, we can discover something of God, for even the rocks may cry out. Tongues and hands may serve as the instruments of God. Human flesh assumes divinity. Christmas comes.
Immanuel, God with us, was made manifest in Bethlehem two thousand years ago and is still at work today. We are all too aware of our profound flaws, the many ways in which we prove ourselves inadequate vessels. But still, He uses us, you and me. May there be ever more of Christmas in us and through us.
As might be guessed, we are on the road much of the time. When home, we continue to enjoy northern Virginia with azaleas in the spring, dahlias blooming in the summer, multicolored autumns, and crisp winters. It is a blessing to have Maryellen's sister, Candice, in our basement flat and to have her very capable assistance with keeping the Ambleside office and website going. Ginger, our yellow lab, and Jazz, Candice's golden retriever, keep things hopping.
The work of Ambleside continues to thrive. With the addition of the Vine School in Cape Town, South Africa; Ambleside of Boerne in Boerne, Texas; and Ambleside of the Adirondacks in upstate New York; there are now ten Ambleside schools. An additional five locations are hoping to open in the near future. More than numbers, it is the bright glow on child faces and the clear growth in a joyful maturity that most encourages. We have the great privilege of witnessing students, parents, and teachers flourish.
Bill and Maryellen St Cyr