Every year the holiday traditions change a bit from the year before, but there are some things that stay the same. Stockings are hung, a gingerbread house is pieced together, and we count down the days until Christmas on our advent calendar. Some things should stay the same because the traditions that frame the holidays bring us a sense of comfort and set the stage for a season of warm togetherness.
I’m glad I got a head start on the holidays this year. The presents were wrapped and placed under the tree before Thanksgiving. I resisted the hustle, the overspending, and large crowds of hurried people. I have missed all the busy and, as a result, afforded myself and our family extra time to pay attention to the people and real-world situations going on around us. The advance planning has left room for more.
This year, I am chronically aware that people are hurting after receiving a horrible set of news at the end of October. An old friend of mine was found lifeless after an accidental drug overdose. I was stunned to find out that they had suffered for years under the weight of that addiction. For many families, the shiny tinsel and blinking lights can’t hide the hard realities that cannot be changed. I have begun to wonder, more and more, what is really going on in other people’s hearts and in their lives.
My recently ignited burden for others who are hurting has led me to create a new tradition, a tradition that includes looking for and paying attention to the people around me who are in desperate need of a Savior. The enemy does not want us to take a moment to sit and pray, to allow God to bring people to mind who are in desperate need of peace. The enemy wants our hearts to be frayed and disconnected and overwhelmed with activity so that we will miss opportunities to pray for the world around us.
December will no longer be a month of busy. It will be a month of quiet, simple intercession. I will ask God to show me what I might have missed had I bought into all the hype. I might sit down and write a real pen-and-paper letter using encouraging words and Scripture to reach those who have lost someone or who find themselves in a lonely season of life. This holiday, I have a renewed desire to reach out to the broken, the lost, and the oppressed and offer them some of the year’s best gifts… prayers and petitions for true peace in their lives.