Christmas Eve is not a holiday in itself per se, but it is a day that we mark as we gather in anticipation of finally being able to celebrate the birth of the Christ child. We gather with family and friends, attend church services, and put the finishing touches on preparations. Small things — like tying the final bows around packages, and gathering the ingredients for a family recipe that gets made only once a year, seem trivial in the moment, but culminate to become cherished traditions and memories that turn into shared stories — which upon reflection make this not just a day, but truly a celebration. The thing is, it is hard to know in the moment what will become significant, what will be fleeting, and what will be forever in your heart as a part of Christmas.
For Mary and Joseph, nothing was unremarkable about the birth of Jesus Christ. From the angel telling Mary that she has found favor with God (Luke 1:30) to the Lord appearing to Joseph in a dream and telling him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:20). By word of an angel to the shepherds (Luke 2:9-15) and through the star in the east (Matthew 2:2), news spread quickly of the significance of Jesus Christ’s birth. However, before this, how many people let Mary, Joseph, and their unborn child just go by without a second thought; let them just pass, or completely disregarded them? Would the story leading up the Jesus’ birth be different if people realized it was just the beginning of something we would still be celebrating more than 2000 years later?
We do now know God’s plan, but we know that he intends for us to share his love. It seems to me that this love is what makes the Christmas Season so magical — the very thing that makes baking cookies, gathering with friends, and placing decorations go from small to significant.
As we surround ourselves in the Christmas Season and the celebration of the birth of Christ, it is hard to forget that there are many places around the world that need God’s love. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, but we have a choice to make. When we hear about others, or places that may not affect us do we turn our heads or do we acknowledge that they could be a part of something significant or bigger — if not for us, maybe for someone else?
As advent ends today and we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, we ask you to share God’s love by joining us in prayers for peace —
Pray for Syrian refugees.
Since civil war broke out in March 2011, more than 4.4 million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries to escape the violence; at least 7.6 million are displaced inside Syria. The humanitarian crisis does not show signs of slowing and more than half of those who are affected are children. Children are unable to go to school and are at risk for exploitation. Humanitarian funding has not kept pace with the need. Ask God to be an ever-present source of help for these families.
God, You are the Great Provider. You see Syrians’ needs with a tender heart. Just as you sustained the Israelites in the desert and fed the 5,000 with just a few loaves and fish, bring the Syrians exactly what they need each day to survive. Comfort them as they struggle, and nourish their souls with renewed hope each morning.
Pray for orphans and separated families in South Sudan.
Conflict has forced another 500,000 people to flee to surrounding countries such as Ethiopia. Deng Maleuth, 15, spent three months walking from conflict-ridden Unity state to a camp in Warrap state. “I have no mother or father,” he says. He lost all his siblings as well. Deng joined the 1.2 million people on the run within South Sudan’s borders.
Many children can’t go to school, and there is little for them to do in displacement camps. Extreme poverty and a history of exposure to conflict make children vulnerable to recruitment as soldiers. The U.N. children’s agency estimated there were 12,000 child soldiers in South Sudan at the end of 2014.
Father God, our hearts break for these precious children who have lost parents or have become separated from family. Be with them and bring people around them to show them Your love and goodness in spite of their grief and fear. Please shield children from becoming soldiers and heal those who have fought in war. Please be with the people of South Sudan and leaders who are working to negotiate peace.
Pray for Christians in Palestine.
The Arab Christian population in the Israeli and Palestinian territories is declining. Messianic Jews in Israel face significant challenges. In the Palestinian territories, Christians are major providers of social services and education, promoting peace and reconciliation among Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Pray for churches in the Holy Land — both in Israel and the West Bank/Gaza. Pray that Christians will remain strong in their faith and continue serving as peacemakers in the midst of conflict.
Dear Lord, bless the church in the Holy Land. Though their numbers are small, they are doing a mighty work. When they are tired and discouraged, bring refreshment and encouragement. Help them remember that if they don’t give up, they will reap a harvest of blessing at just the right time. And bring Your peace to the city of Jerusalem.
Pray for an end to gang activity in Central America.
Drug trafficking, gang activity, easy access to guns, and an ineffective justice system have contributed to high levels of crime and violence in Central America. Even people living in small towns fear being robbed, threatened, extorted, or kidnapped. More than 900 gangs operate in Central America today, with an estimated 70,000 members. Pray for the work of World Vision’s Culture of Peace program, which helps young people find their identity in Christ — not gangs — and teaches them vocational skills so they can better resist the temptation of easy money from criminal activities.
Dear Lord, thank You so much for the gift of Your Son. Through Him, we truly become a new creation. Bless the work of Culture of Peace programs. Help young people who participate see themselves the way You see them.
This is the last post in our Advent series. Read the full series here.
Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas from World Vision Advocacy!
Photo: © 2015 World Vision/ photo by Laura Reinhardt