Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
By Dr. Jeremy Delamarter, School of Education
In the world of education, we measure students’ progress against predetermined standards. For example, our School of Education students have to take the state mandated edTPA, a test with the goal of ensuring that the only people to get teaching certificates are those who actually know how to teach. Much of what we do in the School of Education is designed to help our students meet these standards.
This is true in K-12 education as well. Most states require students to pass high-stakes tests in order to graduate. Because school funding and teachers’ jobs are often linked to students’ scores, more and more of the school year is being devoted to making sure that students can meet standards. In fact, some elementary schools have even cancelled recess in order to devote more time to test preparation.
Overall, I am generally in favor of standards-based education. We’re absolutely right to expect high school graduates to know certain things and to have certain skills, just as it’s completely appropriate to expect future teachers to be able to plan lessons and differentiate instruction. Nevertheless, our current system worries me because our emphasis on meeting standards only makes sense if we’re actually measuring the right things. But what if we’re using the wrong standards?
The birth of Christ highlights just how wrong our standards can be. The Jews of the day were persecuted and marginalized second-class citizens in a Roman world. They’d been promised a Messiah and they expected God to deliver in spectacular fashion. But the nativity hardly lived up to their expectations. Military leader? Fail. Political leader? Fail. Powerful? Rich? Strong? Fail, fail, fail.
Instead of a reincarnated David, toppling the Philistine Romans, they were handed a pregnant teenager and her workingclass husband. Instead of a freedom fighter, they got a crying infant. Instead of the sword, they got swaddling clothes.
Whatever disappointment they may have felt, however, stems from this simple fact: they were using the wrong standards. Just as teachers sometimes have students whose gifts simply don’t fit into a prefabricated box, so too the standards used to judge earthly power cannot be used to judge Christ. He turned everything on its head: Pray for your enemies? The first shall be last? Blessed are the merciful? This is hardly the revolution they were expecting, but, in the end, it’s the only revolution that matters.
The birth of Christ invites us to rethink and reimagine our own standards, to align them with the incarnate Truth. In the words of the old hymn,
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
This Christmas season, let us be transformed and recalibrated by Christ, and let us see His birth for what it really is: an outpouring of God’s deep, wondrous, and redemptive love.