This Christmas the church is raising money for Save the Children. Each year we commit to support three charities – one local, one national and one international. Considering the catastrophic events in the Middle East, namely Syria and Yemen, it seems pertinent that we support the most vulnerable victims of military power games. Can we learn the lessons of history? It seems not. Jesus, the infant, alongside his family, was subject to the mighty rule and terror of the tetrarch King Herod and the ruthless force of the Roman Empire.
I feel a little and easy and incongruent as we celebrate the gift of the Christ child in our comfort and peace whilst it seems that the rest of the world is in a state of confusion and danger, even catastrophe. This is the reality, that we open our eyes and ears to the events in the world which are outside of the familiar and commonplace. We seek donations at our beautiful candlelit carol service, we auction off our hampers and gifts, we respond to the international emergency appeal. But we do more than this, more than the gift of monetary offerings. We pray.
At times of crisis prayer does not seem to be a very strategic measure. Praying for a cause which is outside of sight and sound feels like it might be wasted time. £10 in the plate at least gives us a feeling of self-satisfaction! Prayer is not like that – it does not deal with falseness or avoidance. Prayer goes to the heart of the matter which is why so many Christian contemplatives throughout history have been struck by physical illness and were vulnerable to spiritual attack. The people who pray for the needs of the world are the ones who are also vulnerable to the aches and sorrows of God’s creation.
Jesus’s birth, his growth in maturity, his short ministry and his premature death, is our God-given example of prayer in action. Then, as now, the land called holy was a battleground between different cultures, ideologies and religions. What would Jesus do today? He would pray, and that prayer would reflect his most famous sermon. Jesus would pour blessings on the world but especially the spiritually impoverished, the bereaved, the humble and meek, the seekers of mercy and truth, the peacemakers and the persecuted.
We need look no further for a prayer strategy for today. This Christmas, please give accordingly. But please also pray for the world in which we are asked to act as stewards. Under our stewardship and acting as the hands and feet of Christ, may we continue to commit our support for the vulnerable and the broken in our world. Our prayer is our gift.
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