By Michelle S. Lazurek, Crosswalk.com
No matter how hard we try, families become more focused on dinners, tree decorating, card sending, and gift giving during the Christmas season. There's nothing wrong with these things, but keeping our minds and hearts focused on Christ during this season is important. Each weekend, church families light the Advent candles. This brings us one week closer to Christmas. While this is very exciting, especially for kids, prayer can sometimes get forgotten in all the hustle and bustle.
What if we made prayer the focus instead of all the Christmas items on our lists? As a family, you can keep prayer as a priority. While many families enjoy ticking off the days from an Advent calendar until Christmas, you can create an Advent prayer calendar for each day. On the corresponding day, a family member can lead the prayer that day. You can choose to make prayer the focus for your family. Here are three prayers you can pray during prayer time to keep your family closer this Christmas season:
1. Help Us Keep the Peace
Holidays can be a time of strain and turmoil. Some people who have tense family relationships will run into those people at some point during the holiday season. This can fill people's hearts with dread rather than with joy. However, the Prince of Peace offers peace to everyone. Romans says, “As it stands with you, live at peace with everyone.” One of the best gifts you can give yourself and family members this Christmas is to reconcile a relationship. It is a gift to you because it restores peace within your soul and provides peace to the offender, especially if they are sorrowful for their mistake. For reconciliation to occur, both parties must accept responsibility for their part in the conflict. By admitting your faults openly and honestly, both parties can relate to each other in a way that doesn't make one superior. Humility is the antithesis of pride, which can sometimes be at the heart of a tense relationship. By removing pride and restoring it with humility, you have a chance to make peace with others and give yourself the peace that Christ wants for all his children.
2. Help Me Keep You the Focus
Although the holidays should focus on Christ, people do the opposite during this season. They focus on the financial, practical, and busy side of the Christmas season. With kids in holiday plays, family Christmas parties, gift exchanges, and church Christmas events, many people have no lack of things to do during the Christmas season. In fact, some people wish the season would be over just so they can have a little bit of relaxation. To remedy this issue, make this Christmas slower-paced by re-evaluating your obligations. Do you have to attend every church-wide Christmas event? Take an inventory of your responsibilities. What things can go, and what things can stay? What things give you joy and will make memories that will last a lifetime? Be honest with yourself about what you can and cannot handle.
Christ was born in some of the worst physical conditions. Not only this, but he also had the threat of death as soon as he was born. Persecution followed Jesus from the moment of his birth to the time of his death. Reflect on what Christ's birth signifies. Was Christ born so you can give an expensive gift to your family member for a moment of happiness? Or was he born with the purpose of giving hope, unconditional love, and, ultimately, salvation? Focus on the true meaning of Christmas every day. Seek to read a devotional or cling to the Word of God during the month of December. Don't read it simply to check it off the to-do- list. Instead, focus on the words that are written. In what ways can this deepen your life during December?
3. Help Me Give the Ultimate Gift to Others
Once you have focused your mind and vowed to dwell on him each day, make a point to share what you know with the people around you. Be a good neighbor and invite them to your Christmas dinner table. Make a ton of cookies and offer them to them. Help them string their lights or put up their Christmas tree. Take one step in fostering your relationship with your neighbors. The ultimate commandment is true: “love your neighbor as yourself.”
This commandment doesn't only just apply to your actual neighbors but also to anyone whom you believe is a follower of Christ. Go the extra mile for friends at church. Invite someone to your dinner table who often is ostracized at church. Visit someone in the hospital or who is bedridden at home. Ask your pastor if there are any needs in the church for which he could use some assistance. Both to believers and non-believers, we can be the hands and feet of Jesus in a hostile world. Although culture no longer wants to be preached at, our stories are more important than ever. Tell people your stories of how God is at work. Your testimony is the one thing people cannot disagree with. Both believers and non-believers can use a reminder of who Jesus is during the holiday season.
You could inspire people around you by sharing your story and demonstrating the fruit of the spirit. Non-believers, especially those going through a rough time, may be prompted to ask why you were so kind during their time of pain. Although some Christians believe that non-Christians don't want to hear about the gospel, they would rather see a demonstration of the gospel in your life. This is something that they cannot disagree with and may inspire them to be more like you because of your example.
Don't assume you know your friends, co-workers, and neighbors don’t share your values or your faith. More than likely, their core values match those of Jesus. They just don't know it. Sometimes, their painful experiences with church people, or simply a lack of awareness as a child, can cause them to believe they do not believe in Jesus. However, their lives may mimic that of the Savior more than they realized.
The next time they do something that mimics something Jesus would do, tell them that. Help Jesus become real in their lives without preaching a word. Although your friends may never darken the doors of your church, they may be inspired to research Jesus on their own, watch a video, or even read the word of God because of your example. You never know what Jesus will do in people's lives. Simply do what you feel God is asking you to do and let Jesus do the rest.
Although most Christians assume Jesus is the center of every Christmas season, we can easily lose sight of what he is doing in their lives. Most importantly, we can lose sight of the classic Gospel message: Jesus was born—and ultimately died—for you. He loves you and wants a relationship with you. He wants to know you intimately and invites you to do the same with him. Give people the opportunity to accept Jesus into their lives or simply witness your example. By keeping the focus on saving the lost, forgiveness, reconciliation, and demonstrating the fruit of the spirit, you could be giving many gifts to people that have cost you nothing except time in prayer this Christmas season.