The Ghost of Christmas Present

A few weeks ago, I came home from work to find my family quietly sitting together on the couch, watching the old Christmas special, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” At bedtime that night, as I was helping my 5-year-old put on his pajamas, he asked me, “Daddy, why doesn’t Santa just use the mail? It’s so much easier!” There is, of course, a certain “cuteness” factor in that question, but there’s a whole lot more there, too. For example, it reminds me that not only is my son’s mind an insatiable sponge, constantly absorbing all that he sees and hears – including everything his daddy does right and wrong (not unlike Santa, for that matter), but more than that, he’s using it to great effect – in this case analyzing the situation portrayed in the story and wondering why Santa would (1) risk missing Christmas by failing to prepare adequately for the possibility of fog; (2) not figure out, after all these years, that his distribution network is quite antiquated and inefficient; (3) unnecessarily subject himself to so much stress, particularly at his age, by trying to deliver presents to all the good children in the world in one night; and (4) not know that the logistics to accomplish his annual task have already been established by the U.S. Postal Service, whose very creed states that “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” In light of all this, what Santa does makes little sense to his 5-year-old mind. But what I love most about this story is that my son has the luxury to contemplate these kinds of matters. He is safe and free to ponder what he is learning and to ask questions. And those questions belie a certain innocence and naïveté, not only about Santa (which only add to his adorability), but also about life in general. Whereas for most Americans, Christmas day brought to a close the 2014 Christmas season, which now seems to begin in late September, for Christians in many other parts of the world, it was merely the first day of Christmas, a holiday that for centuries has lasted 12 days. And unlike the joyous celebration that my son and most other Americans experience during Advent, the 12 days between Christmas day and the Epiphany are now regarded by Christians in many parts of the world as a time of apprehension and fear – especially in a number of Muslim majority countries, where Christians are facing an existential threat, but elsewhere, as well. As a result, Christians in these places are bracing themselves for the brutal attacks that will likely take place during this time. For them, it’s becoming a haunting new Christmas tradition. Not to put a damper on your holiday celebrations, but for New Years Day, how about a comprehensive and sobering synopsis of such attacks in recent years? For this, I commend to you Nina Shea’s recent article in the current edition of World Affairs magazine. I think it will make you appreciate all the more the blessings God has given you, as it has me. And in response, I would suggest that you take some time to thank Him for them all and to pray for Christian families just like yours who are simply hoping to survive this Christmas season. I will especially be praying for all those 5-year-olds whose Christian parents wish that their child could have the kind of formative years that mine gets to have rather than experiencing at such a tender age the ravages of terrorism. Here is my prayer for our brothers and sisters facing persecution: “Dear Heavenly Father, I am humbled by your amazing grace toward me and my family – especially during this Christmas season, as I am constantly reminded of the example you set for us in sending your Son. And as I reflect on your goodness toward us, I am taken aback by the horrible situations faced by your children in other parts of the world. Lord, I know you care about each and every one of them no less than you care about me, so I pray for the families that have been torn apart by the violence they have encountered simply because they have chosen to follow You. I pray for the parents who have literally lost their children and are at their wits end because they don’t know where to go to find them that you would bring them peace, with or without reunion. Help them to cast their cares on You, for You care for them. I pray for the children who are witnesses to unspeakable violence and who will be scarred by what they have seen for the remainder of their lives that you would bring healing to their psyche. Intervene and enable them to come unto You, the One who made each of them in their mother’s womb and knows them by name. I pray for those who are doing their utmost to attend to these innocent victims that You would sustain and encourage them despite the desperation all around them. Let them not grow weary of doing good deeds that they may reap an abundant harvest. I pray for your Church throughout the rest of the world that your people would wake up and come to the aid of their sisters and brothers and do so in a way that shames everyone else and that brings glory to your Name. I pray, o Lord, that You would do in our day what you promised Habakkuk when you said, “Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” Amaze me, Lord. Amaze us all. For you have promised that all things work together for good to them that love You and are called according to your purpose. I trust that You will keep your Word and I pray all this in your most precious and holy Name, Amen.” A.G. attends Capital Church in Vienna, VA (http://www.capitalchurch.net/)  

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