'Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7
Twinkling lights on a luxuriant Douglas fir bedecked with oh so many school-made ornaments—and baubles that sparkle too. Stockings hung on the mantle—an additional one this year, each representing the personality of its keeper. The fragrance of peppermint and gingerbread and cinnamon swirling inside while icy gusts or the promise of snow transforms the neighborhood into a Winter Wonderland (or Washington’s verdant version). And the gatherings! Parties with work friends and church friends and family… it’s a season I’ve treasured for as long as I can remember.
There’s another reason I enjoy the holidays. For my extended family, it becomes a season of prayer.
My parents, brothers, sister and their spouses and children, wherever we're gathered (because for most of the year we’re scattered) amidst the festivities, collect in a room, bundle in blankets on overstuffed couches, usually in my parents' front room, and pray. Sometimes someone is Skyped in because geography kept them away. One time friends joined us and we sang Christmas songs together.
We’ll spend time talking and laughing about the craziness of life. We’ll share personal things too—about loss or unmet expectations or looming uncertainty. Then my dad, or one of my brothers, or me or my mom or anyone else who wants, will open the Bible to read scripture, maybe say a bit about it, and we’ll bow our heads and talk to God.
Most of us were together during Thanksgiving. We prayed as a family united— as Christians who seek to know God more, seek to do His will more often and desire to love others in deeper, meaningful ways. We prayed for restoration too because, probably like your family, there are some menacing issues ahead of us.
We certainly want life to go well for each other and we’re clear about asking God to send relief. He alone gets to determine what that looks like, but all of us get the gift of peace that steadies our racing hearts and calms troubled minds.
It made me wonder how many other believers share this habit.
Many of us say grace before meals and prayers before bedtime. We anticipate quiet time with the Lord in the morning, over a cup of coffee before the day begins. But how many of us gather with other believers—maybe our extended family (if we’re so blessed) or friends (also, if we’re blessed) and pray together in groups small enough for everyone to speak…and care for each other?
I believe Christmas is about restoration; God restoring us to Himself through the work of his son by the power of the Holy Spirit. I heard a pastor say once, “God doesn’t make new things—but makes all things new.”
Perhaps the newness is a changed situation in the form of returning health, financial provision or renewed relationships...I hope so for all those who we love. Mainly though, our newness is something greater than this fragile world can provide—it’s a deeper understanding of the God who loves us so, a profound opportunity to know the one who came to save—the one who even now guards our hearts and minds. And in knowing Him, we discover who we were created to be.
To be honest, our extended family has done this for many years—all seasons of the year—not just Christmastime. But as time quickens its pace, I appreciate it more than ever.
The Lord is near to you, Paul's words ring from Philippians. That is reason enough to rejoice! That He wants to hear from us is too good to be true. Ask for what you need, Paul writes, and do so with gratitude and humility. Then rest, in the protection and security His peace affords you.
Maybe that relentless obstacle you're being crushed by will be banished from your life by prayer--or maybe God will allow it to linger long enough to become your servant. How? By causing you to cry out to the Lord for its removal, acknowledging your dependency and His Lordship, as you submit to the One who loves more. And the power of the peace that surpasses comprehension will allow you to climb atop that burden with arms outstretched to Heaven. Closer than ever you were before.
It's now considered vintage, the Creative Circle Embroidery Kit #1004. The finished work shows a solitary robin standing a branch of budding flowers in the top left corner. A small nest with three turquoise eggs rests in a tangle of flowers and greenery bottom right. And in the middle, in tawny letters, big and bold, it reads "Life is fragile: handle with prayer."
My mom was all about Creative Circle in the 1980's and her 18"x24" embroidered masterwork, hung in our home for several years. But just like shoulder pads, teased hair and the video rental superstores that were common in that era—its popularity diminished.
What didn't change though is the truth it references: The call for believers everywhere to pray: individually, collectively and frequently.
Life is fragile. We are fragile. But the God who made us--is not.
Everything by prayer.
"Lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles and run with endurance the race set before you. "