Monday, 17 November 2014

32 Day Christmas Prayer Challenge

10 Minute Daily Retreat (no.18)
By Susanne Timpani
Jacarandas have burst in to life, their purple blossoms heralding the advent of Christmas. 


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White or purple Agapanthus – colloquially known as Bethlehem stars – brighten up parks and gardens.


http://morguefile.com/archive#/?q=agapanthus&sort=pop&photo_lib=morgueFile

Adults and children alike come out to enjoy Christmas pageants and Santa has arrived in Department stores. Christmas trees, lights and tinsel decorate homes, shops and offices. Christmas carols are piped through intercoms in busy malls, lulling shoppers to dig deep and spend more. After all, we are counting down the number of shopping days until Christmas.

Post offices not visited for over a year are lined with customers waiting to purchase the discounted Christmas stamps. Cards are mailed and received.

For those who work in welfare, the names of needy families are collated and sent into charities in the hope that Santa arrives for everyone. Food hampers are created and volunteer agencies are busy delivering them.

Schools and dance classes are practicing for the end of the year concerts or nativity plays. Work sites and recreational clubs celebrate over special dinners.

In some denominations, parishioners dust off family advent wreaths and the hunt is on to find a discount store that sells those illusive purple and rose candles. For those who go to church, the scripture readings and sermons aim to help people prepare for the ultimate celebration of the season; the birth of Jesus Christ.

In the midst of so much activity there is a danger that we ignore the glue that binds it all together. Daily, deep, intimate prayer with the very person whose birth we celebrate. 

She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,[a]
    which means ‘God is with us.’”(Matthew 1:23)

Jesus is with us and waits for us each day to turn up for prayer, and experience His presence. If we don’t make a decision to set aside a specific time slot to pray, it’s highly likely that we will succumb to the busyness of the season, and it just won't happen.

For some, praying can be hard. What do we say to God? How do we know if He is even listening?
The value of integrating scripture into daily prayer can never be underestimated.

In the '32 Day Christmas Prayer Challenge’, the Christmas story is divvied up into 32 bible verses. The challenge is to sit in silence every day for 10 minutes. A format based on the ancient Christian practice of  Lectio Divina  may be helpful. (see below)

The story begins with the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist. It continues past Christmas day to include the flight of Jesus, Mary and Joseph into Egypt. It concludes on New Year’s Eve with their return to Israel and the settling of Jesus into family life. 

To continue to pray with scripture each day is an excellent challenge to take up as a New Year resolution. 
If you don’t already receive these reflections via email, why not submit your email address so that you don't miss a reflection? I look forward to sharing this '32 Day Christmas Prayer Challenge' with you.

5 minutes: READ the text slowly.
REFLECT on a phrase or word that struck you.
SPEAK to God about your thoughts.
5 minutes: LISTEN to God speak to you.
RESPOND with a prayer that feels right for you.