How to pray while you shop
One month ago today, a health crisis struck our family. Yet the holiday season still hustles along. Each day, we float in and out of prayer…longing for hurts to heal. For sparks of joy to keep hope burning. For patience with each other and strength to meet our daily responsibilities. For a lifetime’s worth of love to press into lonely places. Maybe these are some of your prayers, too.
When Pastor Julie and I arrive in Thailand next week, we will come face to face with women who are also caring for their loved ones facing a health crisis. They are making ends meet through the handicrafts for sale at Festival of Hope at Chapel Hill this weekend. (These sales will also give students scholarships to serve in Mexico alongside our partner, Agua Viva, in February!)
This trip brings the jumble of family and festivity into focus for me. It is both a sacrifice and a privilege to travel. It’s a time to learn and to be an encourager. Whether you shop at the market tomorrow or come on one of our cross-cultural trips in 2024, Jesus is present when we connect with our brothers and sisters across distance and differences…even and especially when we are feeling our own vulnerability.
Isn’t this what Jesus did when he came as a baby? He made himself vulnerable, leaving his throne of power. He put himself in the position of learning in a new culture (Phil. 2:7). It’s a mystery to us, but Jesus had to learn to speak his language! I remember having newborns at Christmastime and wondering about what their thoughts would be. It is not a bad image for prayer: looking into the infant face of Christ…sharing our wordless longing and receiving his wordless love.
As Christians living on the other side of Jesus’ earthly lifetime…after his death and resurrection but still waiting for his return to set things right…we still seek him with many unanswered questions. Will this illness pass? How can I afford presents? Is there hope for my broken relationships?
These prayers humbly acknowledge our lack of control. The Bible says our prayer is like perfume rising to heaven (Psa. 141:2, Rev. 5:8). And the person bringing our needs to the Father is the Son (Rom. 8:34-35). I imagine my prayers to Jesus transformed by the Holy Spirit from coffee-breath desperation to sweet baby-breath trust. The One who cradles us and locks eyes with us is the One who hears us and answers us with perfect parental care.
I hope that this season of Advent is a time for this kind of prayer in my home and yours. My family likes to keep our nativity manger empty to remind us that although we are waiting, he IS coming. We take a moment after dinner to light a candle, read a verse, sing a song, and say a short prayer. Find a favorite reminder of baby Jesus in your house and place a candle and lighter at hand on your table. Pick up a copy of the Chapel Hill December prayer calendar at the wood wall.
I also like to choose gifts at Festival of Hope that connect to our church partners and share their mission with my loved ones. I can be confident that the precious people who made those gifts have jobs that give them dignity to provide for their children. Last weekend, our Bible translator friend Larry joined us in worship. He and his wife Andrea have been sharing God’s word with people in Muslim cultures for years, but he reminded me that we are ALL Bible translators. We bring God’s love to life for the people around us. Like baby Jesus, we do it by sharing life’s challenges and seeing God’s face in each other.
As you pray during Advent, if you sense God calling you to make a personal cross-cultural connection, we are planning visits to India, Kenya, Mexico, Thailand, or even California. Please reach out to me and come to our info session in January. Or just come see me at Festival of Hope tomorrow anytime between 8:30 am and 2:30 pm in the Gathering Place.
Cara Taylor is Chapel Hill Church’s Outreach Director.