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It's the Holiday Season! 
       

Amram's Story: A Christmas Offering

The hillside above the town of Bethlehem was dotted with goats and sheep.  Small herds clustered around their young shepherd boys and responded to the soft tunes of each one’s unique pipe.  Over there, Shemuel played a haunting folk song on his single wooden reed, and his scrawny little milking goats huddled closer to him for comfort in the cold.  On the next hill over, young Amram played a sprightly dancing tune to keep his docile, black-faced lambs awake hoping they could sleep through the night once the sun had set.  

As the day began to fade to crimson in the western sky, Amram thought he’d build a fire from the sticks he’d been collecting during the day.  That would keep the wolves at bay, and offer a little more warmth in the crisp December night.  The countryside was home to many different shapes and sizes of wolves, and all they seemed to have in common was an insatiable taste for baby goats and his gangly young lambs.  Amram thought he’d use his shepherd’s crook to beat them off and even throw rocks at the wolves if he had to.  It was his job to keep the sheep safe; but more importantly, he loved them dearly and had seen each one come into the world all shivering and bleating and helpless.  So, sometimes it felt more like he was protecting his own little family than it ever did like just plain old guarding his flock of sheep. 

Amram pulled out a hunk of cheese from the sack his mother had slung across his shoulders that morning. Feeling blindly in the bottom of the bag, he found a small loaf of barley bread and some olives that had ripened on the tree outside the door of the little house of stone and clay they called home.   The house was only two rooms, one for the animals and one for his brothers and parents and him.  It smelled of their warm, soft, gentle cow called Chayim, and of the sheep he loved with their oily, wooly coats.  It smelled of wood smoke and spicy olive brine, and of cheese curds separating from the whey of the goat’s milk in the pail.  It smelled of the cypress trees on the hillside and of his parents’ date palm bending and swaying in Bethlehem’s ever-present winds. 
 
The cheese he’d found in his bag was a still buttery from the warmth of the sun and it melted in his mouth. It was the perfect meal, he thought.  It was all he needed.  Once in a great while they had meat or perhaps a young pigeon roasted over the coals.  But mostly it was bread and cheese and olives…and in the evening a little wine poured from a leather bladder hanging from a hook in the back of the house.  Amram was happy, at peace, satisfied by the simple food he ate and the pleasure he took in watching the sheep nudge and butt and finally huddle up together in a cozy wooly pile.  Tonight they’d spend the night in the great open spaces outside Bethlehem.  He would keep them safe from danger and they would dream together under the stars.  Amram pulled his sheepskin blanket up around his shoulders, yawned, stretched, and curled deep down in the tall grass, prepared to rest till dawn. It was a deep and dreamless sleep that Amram slept that night.  Too deep.
 
Next morning Shemuel shook Amram with all his might to wake him.  “Wasn’t it amazing?” he asked? 
 
“Wasn’t what amazing?” Amram answered groggily.  “And what are you doing here?  Where are your goats?”
 
‘The angels, the song, the star…I’ve never seen anything so beautiful.  Didn’t you see it, Amram?”  Shemuel was so excited he could barely contain himself. 
 
Amram sat stupefied.  “You saw what?”  he asked again.
 
“Angels, singing, and light everywhere.  They told us a King has been born somewhere close by…right here in Bethlehem.  All the shepherds are going to find Him so we can greet him and pay our respects to Him.  Are you coming with us or not?”
 
“I’m not,” said Amram.  “I didn’t see any angels and I didn’t hear any singing.  I think you’re crazy, Shemuel.  I’m not going anywhere with you.”  And that was the end of the conversation.
 
Amram spent the day guiding his flock back down the hill and into the compound behind His family’s little house.  That evening he broke bread with his parents and his younger brothers, Jess and Caleb.  They sat beside the fire behind the house where two small doves were roasting for dinner.  Amram told them about the strange scene with Shemuel that morning, and of his bizarre report of angels singing in the night sky.  “Maybe they were stars they saw,” said Amram.  “Maybe they imagined that the stars were singing.  Maybe they’d been drinking wine before they went to bed.  What do you think, Ema?” he asked of his mother.  “Do you think they could really have seen angels?”
 
“I would not dismiss the possibility of angels, son,” she answered.  “They’ve come to earth many times in our history.  They seem to favor us Jews and speak to us often.  Perhaps there really were angels last night.  I hope there were.  I want to believe they came to Shemuel and the others.  And I’m so sorry you didn’t see them. I would have hoped the angels would bless you with their wings and songs and beauty…not just the others.”
 
Amram considered that for a few moments, and for the first time he thought he might have missed something wonderful.  If only he hadn’t slept so deeply he, too, might have witnessed this heavenly throng and heard their celestial hymns.  He, too, might be trudging toward the place where the newborn King lay.  But he hadn’t heard the song, hadn’t seen the angels, and never saw for himself that blinding, perfect light in the sky.  All he had seen was the inside of his blanket …and the impenetrable darkness of exhausted sleep.  The thought of what he had missed spoiled his appetite, and he asked if he could curl up in the house early that night without eating any more.  And so with the soft breathing of Chayim the cow to soothe him and the gentle bleating of the sheep just beyond the partition, Amram drifted off to sleep again. 
 
That night…that unearthly, unbelievable, never-to-be-forgotten night…Amram had a dream.
He dreamed he saw an angel nearly seven feet tall, standing before him in the darkness.  His gown was whiter than any cloth he’d ever seen.  And though his lips never moved, Amram heard the angel say, “Fear not, Amram, for you are blessed among shepherd boys.  For the child that was born in Bethlehem has been greeted by your fellow shepherds and they have gone away to tend their flocks.  But you, Amram, are invited to go alone to the Baby’s side and offer Him a gift that only you can give Him.  And he will bless you from his crib in ways no one else on earth has ever been blessed.  Rise up, take your gift, and hurry to meet the new King.”  Then dawn streaked across the sky and Amram rose from his blanket, and left to check on his flock in the compound. 
 
And then he saw it.  That night, in the cold while he’d been dreaming of angels, a tiny lamb had been born.  It lay shivering and weak-kneed near its mother, barely able to raise its voice to bleat.  Amram instinctively ran to the poor, cold creature and held it in his arms to breathe his warm breath upon it.  He gently rubbed the lamb’s ears and cuddled it near his heart, his arms wrapped around its damp, soft coat of wool.  How could he leave that tender lamb to go and seek a baby in the village?  There was only one way.  He’d have to take it with him, he thought.
 
Amram gently wrapped the lamb in his sleeping blanket, kissed his Ema good-bye, and trekked off to find the baby King the angel had spoken of.  As if his feet already knew the way, he strode confidently down the Street of the Twelve Thieves and then off onto the Path of the Levites that led toward the Temple.  Midway there, he felt the sudden urge to knock on the door of certain inn that everyone in town knew was the best stop for travelers in all of Bethlehem.  “Do you have a tiny baby living here?” he asked in a shy voice.  “I think he might just have been born a day or two ago.”
 
The innkeeper laughed with his head thrown back, showing his broken, yellowed teeth.  “No,” he said.  “The inn is full and there’s no baby here.  But I do have one sleeping in the stable along with my horse, an ox, a couple of sheep and my dog!”  And so, Amram darted around the inn and up to the door of the stable.  He knocked lightly so he would not surprise the family huddled inside.  The father came to the door and opened it a crack.
 
“Yes?” he said.  “What is it you want, boy?”
 
“I came to see the Baby,”Amram replied.  “An angel told me to come.  I saw it in a dream last night.” 
 
And the father, who was quite familiar with the visitation of angels since he’d had such a vision himself, smiled.  “Come in, son.  We would love to have to see the Baby.  His name is Jesus.”
 
Amram stepped into the dark, wood-lined cavern of the stable.  The rhythmic breath of the animals and the quiet gurgle of the baby’s cooing greeted his ears.  It was different from the angel’s song, but just as beautiful a sound.  He walked unsteadily toward the rough-hewn hay trough where the baby lay.  Suddenly, he went weak in the knees and found himself kneeling beside the manger, clutching his lamb to his breast.  Tears streamed down Amram’s cheeks… for reasons he would not understand till years later. Today he only knew he felt that he’d come home at last.
 
Then Amram remembered the angel’s words that he would bring a special gift to the Baby.  He had nothing at all with him to give the Child… except the tiny lamb that lay peacefully asleep now in his arms.  The lamb was warmer now and snuggled close to Amram, curling up under his chin as if Amram were the sun or a hot stone wrapped in soft wool tucked beside him in the cold.  As softly and gently as he could, Amram stood on tiptoe and, reaching over the lip of the manger, placed the sleeping lamb beside the Baby.  The two tiny creatures turned toward each other like a pair of twins entwined in the womb.  Neither was more than two days old; and they fit together in the manger like pieces of a puzzle.  They would lie there together in that manger for hours, drawing comfort from each other in the chilly night, softly nuzzling each other’s hair and looking deeply into one another’s eyes.  The Boy and the lamb would love one another for years to come, gamboling together over the dusty hills outside Nazareth where the family would move in a few short years to start their new life.  But for now, they simply lay in perfect harmony in a rustic wooden crib where cows and goats and oxen had munched their hay only days before.
 
Amram watched the baby and the lamb cuddled together in the straw.  The baby’s mother and father came to stand beside him.  “Thank you,” the Baby’s mother said. “ You have given our Child the gift of warmth in a cold and weary world.  I know he will never forget you for it.  Please tell your own mother how grateful we are that she let you come here today.   You must be very special in God’s eyes.  No one else has brought him a gift yet.  It’s his first present.  So, thank you.  May Yaweh continue to shower you with grace and goodness.”   Amram closed his eyes and tried to sear this precious moment into his memory to keep it safe forever.  It had been so perfect a journey, so perfect a visit, and so great a gift that he had given and received. 
 
Then the Baby began to wriggle and fuss a bit.  “It’s time to feed Him,” the young mother said.  “But thank you again for coming.  I hope our paths cross again sometime in the future.  I would like to see you when you’re grown.” She stooped and kissed the boy gently on the forehead before he turned to leave the stable. 
 
The young shepherd knew he had seen true greatness that day: a shining, mysterious greatness… from the transcendent angel in his dream to the quiet, gentle greatness of his own lamb sleeping beside the newborn King in the stable behind the inn.  Amram had been witness to something far greater than himself, something even more important than his flock of sheep, something more significant even than gold or jewels.  He had seen the face of the Messiah, and somehow he knew that whole generations of people would long for the privilege of spending even a single moment in the presence of such a Child as this.  Amram cherished the knowledge that he had been called to kneel there all alone beside a miraculous Infant who would change the world forever…and he had been asked to give Him the only thing he had to give: a single, fragile, newborn lamb for Jesus to call His own. 
 
Amram’s was not a story that would find its way into recorded history where it would live forever in glory.  But it was an experience that would live in the heart and soul of that one little shepherd boy for the rest of his life. That was enough for him.  Perhaps now his story will live in your heart as well.  And may the angels of Bethlehem bless you with their song this Christmas.


Deborah David

Head of School

Week at a Glance
December 16-20

Click Here to download a copy to print for the front of the fridge!

Remember that Christmas Break begins December 19, and school will resume January 7. 

Spanish Class

We are having a great year in class! Congratulations chicos!

I am sending a winter letter encouraging everyone to practice Spanish during the winter break. I am suggesting activities for all levels to develop listening and speaking awareness, reading skills, Spanish websites and iTunes applications to have fun at home!

I addition, fourth to sixth grades will continue working on Spanish Rosetta Stone. We already had our first studio session with sixth graders. That was fun! Our fourth and fifth graders are already booked to start a studio session in January 2014.

Children's Literature

Ms. Casas has sent home a list of Spanish books that you will enjoy reading with your children over the holidays! The letter has a really good information of how to choose a book, read aloud, discuss the story, check understanding, and doing activities related to the book topic. Have fun amigos!

Thank you very much for all your great support! Happy Holidays!

iFeliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo!

Señorita Casas  :)

Admission Update

The Admission Office is in full swing processing applications, conducting parent interviews, and hosting open houses. If you are considering applying for admission for a sibling, please fill out your application soon. You can learn about the application process and access the online application by following this link to our application portal. Our final deadline is January 17th, and there are several steps you will need to complete before that date. Questions? Please call the Admission Office at (213) 382-2315 ext. 255.

Winter ASE

Winter After School Enrichment classes are available now! All class schedules and details can be found on the Parent Portal. You may enroll your child in as few or as many classes as your schedule permits.
 
Please register for any and all classes through the St. James’ Parent Portal by clicking here
 
The cost for each 9 week class is $270, 8 week classes are $240.
 
Registration for ASE classes will close on January 17. No changes, additions, or cancellations will be accepted after this date.
Christmas Pageant
December 18
7:00 pm

Last Friday, December 6th, you received two tickets by backpack express that must be presented at the door the night of the pageant. Remember that red ticket holders (Kindergarten, 3rd grade, 6th grade and new families) will be seated in the Church and can enter through the doors on St. Andrews Place. Green ticket holders (1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th grades) will be seated in Parish Hall and can enter through the Parish Hall doors that take you past the Business Office. We cannot wait for this stunning Pageant! 

Preschool Christmas Pageant
December 18
10:00 am

Parents are invited to St. James' Hall for the Preschool Christmas Pageant. Come see the students perform songs of the season. 

Holiday Family Movie Night
December 20

Councilmember Tom LaBonge and Staff invite you to The 1st Annual Family Holiday Movie Night, featuring “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” & “Twas’ The Night Before Christmas.”  Come and enjoy this family-friendly evening, located on the grounds of the Historic Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round.

Please join us, Friday, December 20th, 2013 from 5:00 PM- 8:00 PM.  The movie is free. Carousel rides are $2 per person. Concessions will be sold.  Dress warmly and bring blankets and picnic snacks.  All proceeds will go to the Midnight Mission

If you have any questions please call Anne-Marie Johnson, 213-485-3337 or anne-marie.johnson@lacity.org

Husky Highlights

Husky Highlights are available for viewing in full color online! Thank you to all of the wonderful parents who help put together this lovely publication. Click here to view.

Please note that Sage Maitri is the amazing parent responsible for the make up design worn by cast members in the Wizard of Oz production. Thank you so much for heading the make up team! Our apologies for the misprint. 

Computer Science Education Week

The Hour of Code is an opportunity for every student to try computer science for one hour. During Computer Science Education Week, Dec. 9-15, St. James' is making history and joining 10 million students, teachers, non-profit sector employees in completing the Hour of Code. 

This week, our students have already logged over 175 hours of coding or programming, just in the SJS Computer Lab! This doesn’t even count the activities we’ve done in Student Leadership’s tinkering program for grades 1-3 or SJS’s Lego Mindstorm Robotics program. 

Click here to watch President Obama's call to learn code. 

Leadership Update

After spending the first part of the school year developing the attributes it takes to be a leader, Student Leadership Council broke up into their project groups for the first time this week. They will work in these groups throughout the year to tackle projects of their choosing related to their specified topics of interest. On their first day,they spent time reflecting on what makes each of them unique so that they would better know their teammates.

3rd Grade Reindeer

St. James' is definitely in the Holiday Spirit! Mr. Sae-Low's 3rd grade class traced their hands and feet to make personal reindeer. Students personalities shone through as they adorned their deer with hair bows, neck ties, glasses, and mustaches. Click here for photos. 

Arts in Motion

Our own Arts in Motion program brought us Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol this week. The classic Christmas play was presented by Will and Company, an educational performance troupe based out of The Music Center of Los Angeles County. They even asked some of our students to play roles! Click here for photos. 

Service Learning Update

This past Wednesday at All-School Chapel, I had the honor of working with my “Community Cadets” to announce how many granola bars and packages of snack crackers we collected over the past month.  The grand total was 1,835!  Needless to say, our friends at the St. James’ Food Pantry are very grateful.  Thank you for your generosity.  Keep an eye out for info about our next collection coming in January.  

A little over a week ago was the 72nd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.   As we remember the events of that day and those that serve our country through military service, I would like to introduce you to the Greater Los Angeles Fisher House Foundation.  Located on or close to major military and VA medical centers in major cities, Fisher Houses provide a place for family members of service women and men to stay free of charge while while they are receiving treatment.  The L.A. Fisher House is by the VA on the westside.  You can help by making a donation or volunteering.  For more information go to greaterlafisherhouse.org.

Alexandria House has invited us to their Annual Neighborhood Holiday Celebration this Saturday, December 14.  There will be games, activities, food, holiday vendors, and a possible visit from Ms. Claus.  The party runs 1:00 p.m-3:00 p.m. at Alexandria House, 426-436 S. Alexandria Ave.  You can get more info at www.alexandriahouse.org

This coming Sunday, December 15, the people at Big Sunday will be hosting their 4th Annual Big Sunday Holiday Party & Sing-along.  You can join them at 6111 Melrose (just west of Cahuenga), as they share the good times with kids from AbilityFirst, teens from Phoenix House, and seniors from Sunset Hall.  They are also looking for donations of food, toys, and winter clothes.  If you can’t make it Sunday but would like to donate, those donations can be dropped off at 6111 Melrose, from 9-5 during the week.  For more information you can check out their website (bigsunday.org), or contact rob@bigsunday.org.

Have a great holiday break!

Rob Krueger
Service Learning Director
@service_sjs

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