Pray without ceasing - 1 Thess. 5:17
This is the whole verse in Thessalonians. Our readings focus on an increased urgency for the sanctification of each one of us. The Gospel of John repeats some of what we heard from Mark last week, and yet it is expanded and elaborates on who exactly this John is and how he is related to the Christ who is imminent. Isaiah writes of the Spirit anointing one who will bring Good News to the poor and to heal the brokenhearted. Paul prays that "…the God of peace make you perfectly holy…" The message is, I think, start today, start now.
One of the most important aspects of holiness is prayer. We must pray in order to become holy. It is like breathing for the body. We need spiritual oxygen to transform our souls in right-thinking and right-practice (Orthodoxy and orthopraxis). St. Paul writes to the Philippians "have this mind within you" and then goes on to describe the humble mind of Christ. Prayer is a vehicle whereby God plants His thoughts within us.
Advent for Christians is also the peak season for retail commerce. Parties and festivities and plays and shopping all add up to make it one of the busiest times of the year as well. This can crush the spirit of prayer. We need to breathe the silence and sweetness of the season. Preparation in nature often happens in secret and solitude. So it is in the Spirit, we need time alone to think, meditate and pray. I encourage you to take time this Advent to prepare the way of the Lord in your hearts. I offer the simple Jesus Prayer, something one can even say at the Mall!
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Breathe in on the first part "Lord Jesus Christ", letting the name of Jesus inebriate your soul. Breathe out on the second part, letting go of all sin, all worry. If one took 5 minutes a day for this prayer, I believe it could transform our world. Will you join me today in doing this every day before Christmas? Let us pray for one another, that our faithful God will continue to accomplish His work within us.
Giving Opportunity in Bethlehem
We were not able to have Khaled Jaraysa here this fall with his Bethlehem crafts, but one can still help in the middle east by supporting the Children of Peace. I, with other pilgrims from St. Stephens, were able to visit the Children of Peace project in Beit Seor, or better known from the Bible, the Shepherd’s Field, where the angels announced the birth of Christ. They provide funding for the Holy Child Program which serves 33 children and their families traumatized by the strife in the area.
They recently lost their free lunch program which was providing much needed nutrition. It is documented that children in this region are known to be deficient in vitamin A, B12, and iron, resulting in vision problems, anemia, and other health-related issues. It takes only $1.50 a day to provide a hot lunch for a child in the program. Can you provide for a day of lunches for the school? That would be $49.50. Could you provide for one child for a month? That would be $45. How simple, yet such a difference.
See the Children of Peace website for more information. You can use their website for donations.
Their first goal is to raise $4000 by December 31st. Children of Peace is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to supporting programs that serve traumatized children and their families regardless of race, religion or cultural background.