Let's Pray: December

How can we pray well as we head into the Christmas season?

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I love Christmas carols. But it has to be said, there are quite a few that aren’t exactly historically accurate. There’s never been a little drummer boy in any Nativity scene I’ve seen; if you’re really concerned about accuracy, We Three Kings should probably be renamed We Unspecified Number of Magi; and let’s not dwell on the beloved Away in a Manger – Little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes? I don’t think so.

It’s definitely possible that winter temperatures in Bethlehem hit freezing point, although neither Mark nor Luke mention frost or ice in their account of the birth of Jesus, never mind – as In the Bleak Midwinter would have it – “snow on snow on snow”. Questions of meteorological accuracy aside, this particular carol contains a powerful invitation for each of us to consider this Christmas:

What can I give him? Poor as I am,

If I were a shepherd, I would give a lamb,

If I were a wise man, I would do my part,

But what I can I give him?

Give him my heart.

The Nativity story is one full of individuals playing their unique part; bringing what they have, like the pieces of a jigsaw fitting together to make the whole picture of the scene at Jesus’ birth. Elizabeth celebrates and blesses her relative Mary upon hearing she is going to have a baby who will be the Son of God (Luke 1: 39-45). The shepherds – the first to hear the news – hurry to the manger to see what has happened, and they praise and worship God and spread the word among others (Luke 2: 16-20). The Magi travel from the East to worship the new King, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They protect Jesus from Herod’s plan by choosing to travel home by another route (Matthew 2: 1-12). Mary carries her baby and gives birth to a child by a manger as there was no room for them anywhere else; Joseph commits to Mary and the child not his by blood. Both raise and love their son.

Later in the gospels we read of others playing their part, bringing what they have. John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus (Luke 3: 1-20). The boy is part of the crowd on the mountainside shares his fish and bread, with which a miracle is performed (John 6). Children spend time with him (Mark 10: 12-16). Two disciples find Jesus a colt to ride, others throw their cloaks on the horse for Jesus to sit on and the crowd lay their cloaks and branches from trees on the road ahead of him (Matthew 21: 1-9). Our attention is drawn to the poor widow who puts “two very small copper coins” into the temple treasury (Mark 12: 41-44) and Mary at Bethany who anoints Jesus with her expensive perfume while her sister Martha serves a meal (John 12: 1-8).

At his crucifixion, Simon of Cyrene carries the cross behind Jesus (Luke 23: 26). At his burial, Joseph from Arimathea wraps Jesus’ body and places it in the tomb (John 19: 38-42). And when we read of the resurrection, we read that a group of women visit the tomb with spices and perfume (Luke 24: 1-3).

The story of Jesus is sprinkled with accounts of individuals bringing what they can and what they have. Some acts are big and visible to all, others more quiet and hidden. In the final verse of In the Bleak Midwinter, we find the heart of the carol. We’re invited to respond to the Christmas story; to consider what we can bring. Each one of us has something unique to offer in worship of Jesus and in service of others.

What can I give him? Poor as I am,

If I were a shepherd, I would give a lamb,

If I were a wise man, I would do my part,

But what I can I give him?

Give him my heart.

What do you have?

What are you great at?

What do you love to do?

What opportunities are open to you?

We at Home for Good believe that we all have something to bring when it comes to caring for vulnerable children. For some, that might be opening their home to a child or young person through fostering, adoption or supported lodgings. For others, this might look like providing practical support to a friend or neighbour – cooking a meal, helping with the shopping, doing the school run a morning a week. Church families have a huge amount to bring by ensuring their spaces are safe and welcoming for children who have had a tricky start; teachers and classroom assistants can make a transformational difference by providing stability, consistency, encouragement and understanding. Some of us can write to those in positions of power, advocating for children and their families. Others can share their money or resources. The list is endless! We’ve each been given unique gifts, talents, passions and opportunities. This carol reminds us that we are invited to use them for the good of others, in worship of Jesus.

This Christmas season we want to give thanks for every single person who is playing their part. We want to pray for them, asking God to sustain them in what they’re doing. We want to pray for more people to step forward to help vulnerable children and young people find places where they are safe, cared for and where they belong. And we want to invite you to ask God to inspire you; what could you bring?

Will you join us in prayer this December?

• Fostered and adopted children

Pray for fostered and adopted children this Christmas. This season brings a change in routine, and with it a lot of expectation, excitement, memories and emotions – all of which can be particularly challenging for many children to cope with. Pray for them as they navigate the joys and the challenges of the Christmas period.

• Those caring for children

Pray for foster carers, kinship carers, special guardians, adoptive parents and supported lodgings hosts. Pray for them as they love and support the children and young people in their care through what can be a challenging season. Pray for energy, pray for rest and pray for moments of festive fun and joy together.

• Support networks

Thank God for the communities, churches and networks who wrap around families with support. Pray for sensitivity and understanding around elements of Christmas that are fun for many, but difficult or complicated for some. Pray for those moments of gathering and celebration: carol services, big family dinners, Christmas parties and New Year celebrations.

• Children facing uncertainty

Pray for children facing uncertainty at this time of year, and for those waiting for a home. Pray for peace and protection in that uncertainty and waiting and pray boldly that more people will step forward to become foster carers, adoptive families and supported lodgings hosts and provide a place of safety and belonging for those who are waiting.

• What could you bring?

Finally, we invite you to ask God, “What can I bring?”. What could your part be in helping provide safety, stability, welcoming and belonging to a child or young person?

Creative Prayer Idea: Bring-and-share-meal

The Christmas season provides a beautiful opportunity to practice hospitality and generosity. So many of our Christmas traditions focus on gathering together in churches, homes or even outdoors. It’s fairly common practice to give gifts at this time of year, and many families, groups of friends and communities will share food together too.

As you reflect on your prayer of “What can I bring?” this December, why not invite others to consider the same question and host a bring-and-share meal for people you love?

Bring-and-share meals are a beautiful illustration of the power and the beauty that lies in everyone playing their part. Each dish on its own wouldn’t be able to feed all your guests; some dishes in isolation might be a little strange (gravy with nothing to pour it on?!), and no one needs a napkin if there’s no food on the table. But as each guest brings their one thing, the table becomes fuller and fuller. When each person brings their one thing, the result is a beautiful, full table, around which you can gather and from which you can be fed!

The rules are easy: everybody brings one dish to share, and you end up with a feast! But here are a few extra tips to help you make the most of your bring-and-share meal:

  • Create a sign-up sheet for your guests to assign themselves to a particular dish. You’ll probably want starters, mains, sides, desserts and drinks covered, and depending on the number of guests you invite, you may need a few of each. Deciding who is bringing what in advance means you hopefully won’t end up with four lasagnes and no pudding!
  • Make sure you’re prepared for any dietary requirements your guests may have.
  • Give your guests the freedom to make something from scratch if that’s something they’d enjoy, or to bring a pre-bought item if that brings them ease. Be sure to include items on your sign-up sheet that don’t require spending money, so everyone feels welcome at your meal.
  • If there’s a risk you could run out of serving utensils, be sure to ask your guests to bring anything they need to serve their dish with them. They might want to label their items, if they want to be able to bring it home again too!
  • Be open-minded to new flavours. Bring-and-share meals provide a wonderful opportunity for people to show off their favourite dishes, or food that means a lot to them.
  • Consider using this as an opportunity to extend welcome to someone in your community who may be isolated or lonely this season.
  • We would love to see the chaotic beauty of your bring-and-share meal! Take lots of photos, and share them on social media – tag Home for Good and use the hashtag #whatcanIbring.
Creative Prayer Idea: Bring-and-share-meal

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