Friday, December 21, 2012

Sit. Look. Wonder.

I attended Ada Christian School from Kindergarten through 5th grade.  My elementary school days are some of my most memorable and I still share friendships that were started in the walls of that wonderful, happy place.  When we were deciding on what preschool to send Charlie I pushed ACS from the beginning.  We are still unsure of where our kids will attend elementary school, but for right now, Ada feels like home. I passed my Kindergarten teacher in the hall the other day.  And my 5th grade teacher on my way out today. Simply put, this is amazing, fun and so neat for me. There's just something so right about this place and all of it's wonderful students, teachers and administrators.  I'm only telling you this because of a story I'm about to share. 

There is this Nativity scene. I don't know exactly when it made it's way into Ada Christian, but I have memories of this beautiful crèche.  Mrs. Korf was my art teacher, so I can only assume my memories combined with the following story mean it was there in my time at ACS.  

As we head into the Christmas holiday, let's all pause and remember what it is we are celebrating this holiday season. 

Sit. Look. Wonder.  Jesus Christ is Born.  

Old Nativity Scene Now Inspires Students at Ada ChristianSchool

Tom Rademacher/The Grand Rapids Press

            The pieces from the Herpolsheimer’s display were kept in a basement before being given to the school.
            You can stop reading anytime I start to sound like your Grandfather, but this I know:
            Before the malls, there was Herpolsheimer’s.
            And that’s where you went each Christmas to revel in the Nativity scene.
            Up until some 25 years ago, people would drive downtown or take the bus and top off an evening of shopping by beholding the manger and all it’s attendant figures showcased in the east window of Herpolsheimer’s.
            Which later changed it’s name to Herp’s. Which begot Lazarus. And then the CityCentre. And Mackie’s World. And who-knows-what to follow.
            But forget the future for a moment. Because now it can be told that the past as present is alive and well at Ada Christian Elementary School.
            It came to pass that when Herp’s was being transformed into the City Centre, an electrician by the name of Luke DeVries noticed that the Nativity scene was destined for the trash.
            “What was left over after the liquidation was going to the dump,” said Devries, now 65, and working the same trade for Calvin College.
            “It was in bad repair, but I thought I’d take it to my truck and see what I could do with it.”
            He stored the salvaged items in the basement of his Southeast side home. And at one point during a garage sale, he sold off a camel figure to the owner of a Lebanese restaurant.
            But the other pieces remained, and DeVries eventually offered them to Reny Korf, an art teacher at Ada Christian.  Over the past several years, she’s made the crèche an ongoing art project for her students there.
            A few days ago, the Nativity scene was again unveiled at the school.  It’s set up just inside the main entrance, in an appropriately raw manger setting, but crowned by 18 glittery angels fashioned by talented first and second graders.
            Despite the chips and nicks and retouching each of the manger figures has endured. “You can see the story in the faces of the figures, you really can,” says Korf.
            “They’re all so reverent, so peaceful.”
            I only know about the old Herp’s display being resurrected at Ada Christian because of Judy Alphenaar, a second-grade teacher there.
            “I thought you might be interested,” she said in a letter to me, “because this Nativity scene that brought so much joy to thousands of people who remember Christmas shopping downtown, still brings joy today to the Ada Christian School community.
            When I spoke with Judy’s students, they expressed awe at the display. 
            “I like baby Jesus, because He’s holy,’ said Paul Bratt.
            “I like Mary because she’s baby Jesus’ mother,” said Linden Brinks.
            “I like the angels,” added Sam Wassink, “because they brought the shepherds the news.”
            It is a single shepherd figure, in fact, that appears to have never been repainted.  The face features multiple skin tones, and details lost on the other cast ceramic statues.
            Each December just before Christmas break, Judy brings her second-graders en masse down the hallway to see the exhibit.
            Her own mind drifts back to the 60’s, when a lot of us would wrap up a trip downtown at the Herp’s window.
            “It was just a family tradition,” says Judy.
            To recapture that simple moment again, she instructs her children to sit and contemplate the Nativity scene. 
            She invites them to be quiet, to be still. “I tell them to just look,” shesays. 
            “I tell them to use their wondering eyes.”
            I can’t help but think that on those annual December school days, Judy Alpehnaar’slesson plan approaches absolute perfection. 
            Gather before the Christ child.

"For a child has been born—for us!
    the gift of a son—for us!
He’ll take over
    the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
    Strong God,
Eternal Father,
    Prince of Wholeness." Isaiah 9:6


Charlie and I sat at this scene for a long while after his preschool program. We talked about it's meaning.  We talked about what a Happy Birthday it is. We talked about so much in our time here.  
Sit. Look. Wonder.

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