Sunday, December 24, 2017

Partnering with children to witness the birth of Christ this Christmas




St. Luke 2:12- This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.

The Santa Claus is coming to town lyrics is known in bits and pieces to many. It goes like this

You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town

He sees you when you're sleepin'
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake

He's making a list
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out Who's naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town


The lyrics of this popular song and the baby Jesus wrapped in bands of cloth in St. Luke 2:12 offer a different picture altogether during Christmas. Many a time we sing Christmas songs without thinking much about it and in this particular song poor St. Nicholas (Christmas Father) is made to look as some disciplinarian who checks whether children are good or bad before dropping off gifts for them. It is also a reminder of our own childhood when parents would force feed us with stories of some villain, thief or even crow coming and abducting us if we wouldn’t eat properly! 

It is interesting that adults use Christmas as an opportunity to discipline children when it should be a time when we look at what the young ones offer us for our spiritual revival. Jesus constantly reminds his disciples that they should become like children to enter the kingdom of God and today we are faced with the story of the baby Jesus to make that clear. Whereas in the Santa Claus song the children are told to be prepared and well behaved, in the bible story the shepherds are told about the birth of the Messiah as a child. After the announcement the shepherds are given a clue and a sign and told “You will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth…” After the big declaration of the birth of the Messiah the sign given to the shepherds is of the child wrapped in clothes. For a first time reader this is a big shift in the story. A shift from hope to hopelessness. But the shepherds were experts at their job and God tells the angel to inform them about the Messiah born as a child because God expects something more from them.

The shepherds also perhaps had something special about them. Apart from the fact that they did not mingle with the main stream it could also be that the shepherds knew the value of a baby wrapped in bands of cloth. The reason here could be that the sacrificial lamb meant for sacrifice was also what the shepherds tended and they were given much care and even wrapped in clothes at birth. Jesus as a sacrificial lamb is also steeped in symbolism. So the shepherds know the value of a babe wrapped in clothes. It is something that makes no sense for a new reader though.

When we look more deeply this has a lot of meaning. On the one hand it means that we should value children so much and give them a stake in what we do because the Messiah or savior comes to the world as a child. Honoring children is honoring the Messiah and his birth on earth. This is where we are found wanting. Violence, abuse, wars and deceit is practiced in the world because we have grown up to the level of adults who don’t listen to God anymore. The birth of the Messiah has brought in an era of peace but we are not willing to listen to the Messiah because the Messiah is a child now. This Christmas we should start listening to and respecting children because it will lead to a safer and peaceful world. Instead children are most affected in wars and violence around the world. They suffer most in all forms as they are not valued by adults.

This has to change for us to have a better world. Christmas is a sign of the time that we have to become like children and we have to take care of children. Christmas thus has to become a child oriented festival rather than an adult oriented one. A child oriented festival won’t have power, money and authority as the main foundations of the festival celebration but will have innocence, trust and belief as the main foundations. Christmas is a great time to become small like a child so that we gain entry into the presence of the Messiah and also into the kingdom of God.

Our Christmas services are far from child friendly and instead are complex rituals which have no space for children. They are expected to keep quiet and behave so that St. Nicholas will be good to them and so that they will get gifts from their family. More space can only be possible if we transform ourselves into children and witness the birth of Christ as a child. Maturity and experience will lead to us missing the event of the birth of Christ because it cannot be understood by us. This Christmas we can start first by treating our children at home properly. They need to be respected and valued so that we will see the birth of Christ through them. The partnership of the baby wrapped in clothes and the shepherds gave the world the news of the birth of Christ. This should now become the partnership between us and our children whereby we can again experience the birth of Christ in our midst. Amen.




Picture credit- www.yourhomechurch.org

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Gatecrashing Christmas




The Christmas season offers a variety of traditions for different churches like carols, songs, dinners, sending cards, lent, house visits, church services and fellowships. All traditions have a yearly plan for us and we know exactly what to do. So much so that Christ born is a definite event with no surprise and nothing new. People from other religions also join in to celebrate and it is a welcome sign that everyone is looking forward to Christmas every year.

But what if we had the opportunity to gatecrash Christmas this year? But why, one would ask? Let us take a look at two events which are associated with the advent and Christmas. The first one is in St. Luke 1:39-56 when Mary visits Elizabeth when she knows that Elizabeth is expecting a child. It is true that the baby inside Elizabeth leaps with joy but it is not said that Elizabeth was expecting Mary’s visit. Yet the two are so happy with each other’s presence and they express themselves fully in the happiness of the moment.

The second instance is in St. Luke 2:8-20 where we see the shepherds who are told by the angel that the Messiah is born. They have no idea who they are meeting other than what is said to them by the angel. They go and are in the presence of Mary and the baby. They then realise what they have witnessed and glorify God. In this case Mary had no idea who the shepherds were. The shepherds also had no idea who Mary and the baby Jesus were. Yet, they see each other and it goes off well. The gatecrashing moment led to great joy for Elizabeth and Mary and the shepherds and Mary and Jesus. It was not planned by all of them but they went along with it and it led to great and happy things.

Both the stories mentioned lead us to the concept of gatecrashing. Gatecrashing is when we go to a place uninvited. We usually won’t do it as we don’t know what the repercussions will be. And yet anyone who does it will feel so thrilled to do it. It can even sometimes be called unlawful depending on the type of programme. But nevertheless it will give us an emotion of great happiness and thrill, sometimes even better than other programmes that we attend on invitation.

This brings us to some things which we can look at during Christmas. Christmas is not an ‘upon invitation’ event which is open to a select few but it is what is open to anyone and if churches keep it as an “on invitation” event it is likely to be gatecrashed by the needy. This also teaches us that Christmas doesn’t belong only to Christians but to everyone because the salvation of Christ belongs to everyone. So there is no ‘one’ way or ‘the’ way to celebrate Christmas but several ways to celebrate it.  Christmas is open because Christ willed it so. The angel informing Mary and then informing the shepherds show a non-traditional way of messaging through which the angel chooses two sets of people who are insignificant to the traditional forms of celebrations in the society of their time. Christmas can be truly celebrated when we gatecrash, inspired by the Holy Spirit and led by angels into visiting houses where the elderly live, where we go places where forget cakes but even a meal is rare, where we go to where children are staring into the sky wondering why Christmas Father does not visit them when other apartment complexes and houses have loud music and celebration. 

Such gatecrashing also gives us the courage to do things we would otherwise not do. We simply would not pull ourselves up to do it. But gatecrashing Christmas means opening up the invitation for Christmas for everyone we know and being a part of the lives of others without them knowing before hand. This will make this season one heck of a gatecrash Christmas. We can definitely make it turn out as a time for us to gatecrash a house, a family, a church, or an individual just like Mary did to Elizabeth and just like the shepherds did to Mary and baby Jesus. May the bliss and grace of Christmas be upon us all. Amen. 




Picture credit: www.irishtimes.com

Friday, December 22, 2017

A reminder for Christmas









St. Matthew 2:1-12

It is the season of the birth of Christ and as we get into the festive mood let us also read the word of God and try to understand what the Christmas season should be for all of us. St. Matthew 2:1-12 tells the story of the magi or the wise people visiting Christ the Messiah. The wise people hear about the birth of the Messiah and they are out to meet the baby. They come to the palace of Herod because they think that Herod will know about this. But Herod has no idea and he himself calls upon his advisors and asks them about this. Herod learns from them that the place of birth is likely to be Bethlehem. He then sends the Magi to search for the Messiah and inform him as soon as they see him. 

Christmas is a time when we all remember the birth of Christ Jesus in our midst. It is also a reminder of the profound way in which God loves humans and all of God’s creation. But we are far away from the reality of God and in ways more than one we are always confused about God’s presence in our lives.

In the story of the birth of Christ found in St. Matthew 2 we see two realities of life. On the one hand were the wise people. They had some possessions and yet found that this was not enough for them to gain the happiness they were seeking. They hear about the birth of the Messiah and then take all they have and start their journey to meet the Messiah. 

The other reality of the story is King Herod, a rule unto himself, seeped in corruption and drunk in power. He has no plans to reform himself and neither is he looking for anything else because he thinks he has everything. There was a change of heart later in his life but this was not the case at the time of the story. Herod is not looking for any Messiah. Instead he is on the lookout for various kinds of amusements to keep him busy.

The two sides of the reality meet during the birth of the Messiah, Christ Jesus. In the meeting we have the opportunity to decide what kind of a Christmas we want to celebrate. For this we have to dissect the passage and come to understand what we can learn from it. Firstly, the birth of Christ signifies the coming down of God into the midst of humanity. It is such a humbling and yet powerful act by which God says to humanity that God loves us and will not let go of us, come what may. We can decide what we want to do because we have the freedom for that. But it is humbling for us to note that God who is so powerful can come down to us and be with us to suffer like us. The birth of the Messiah is a reminder for us that God loves us so much that God has become us so that we may become like him. This Christmas we should be reminded in all our tensions and problems, that God loves us beyond measure. Christmas is joy because we are told that whoever tries to exploit and isolate us, God will remain by our side in all God’s magnanimity. 

Secondly, the travel of the Magi shows us that humans are ever behind God and behind peace and happiness. This will never end and everyone who finds God will find peace and happiness. The magi were misled into thinking that the Messiah will be in the palace because the palace was the center of the kingdom. But they soon realise their mistake and carry on their journey following the star which leads them to their goal. Once they reach and witness the baby and his mother, they give all they have because it is lesser than what they have witnessed. Christmas reminds us that we have to journey to find Christ the Messiah. We cannot decide before hand where we will witness Christ. We will be led and we will be taken to places we have never thought of. This could be a manger or a cave or a road side place. All we have to be thinking about is to witness and worship Christ. We will be taken there and Christmas will be fulfilled.

Thirdly, the role of Herod is striking here. He is the King and the ruler who has power to decide who will live and die. This is his prerogative, so he thinks. But he is reminded that it is not the case. He has no idea who the Messiah is and where the Messiah will be born. He is completely at a loss for words and ideas. He realizes that he is the king but he does not know what is happening in his kingdom. Perhaps if he was humble enough, he would have known why. Herod is a reminder for us that we do not own anything. God is the owner of everything and we are care takers of all that God gives to us. The moment we feel that we are owners, we lose everything and become irrelevant. There are many Herods in our society who think that they have created something and everyone else should be subservient to them. But the birth of the Messiah shows us that it is not the case.

May this Christmas be a time when we remember that God loves us so much that God has come down to us to be with us in all our good and bad times. Let us make use of Christmas to remember that we are all on a journey to discover God and God is never in places that are big and powerful but in the least expected places. This Christmas let us let go of power and those who are associated with power because if we don’t, our ignorance will only increase and make us arrogant and insane. Christ is born but Christ can never be born into confinement and slavery but only into freedom and independence. Amen.





Picture credit: www.ncronline.org

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Prayer for fisherfolk impacted by Cyclone Ockhi

God, the giver of life and happiness, we pray for all the fisherfolk who are missing due to cyclone Ockhi. We pray that search teams be able to find those who are alive in some place or be able to give a closure to people from hoping that their dear one/s will come back. These communities dear Lord work for all people and provide food. At this time teach us God how to pray, help and reach out so that our brothers and sisters who fish for us are taken care of at this very difficult time. Many are still searching for loved ones, others are in shock, everyone expects the various governments to consciously help and calls are being made for stricter and safer measures to reduce casualties henceforth. You identified fisherfolk as your first disciples Jesus. Help us to see the same promise that you saw in them and thereby see them as our family and help in ways which are quick and beneficial. Be with them Holy Spirit because they need your strength and guidance at this very difficult time. Many families have lost their bread winners and their livelihood. Human plans are appearing ever so inadequate. Triune God, help our fisherfolk and the families that depend on them. Amen.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Prayer at the beginnng of the week to finish work

Loving God, we pray for flashes of brilliance at the beginning of the week to finish work that is pending and to start work which is crucial. May our faith in you God help us see the guiding star like the wise humans who were searching for the messiah saw. They were wise and yet needed your guidance to finish the important work they had started. May we also God submit our brilliant minds before your revealing stars so that our faith will guide our great plans. Jesus, you submitted everything to your Father despite knowing all and being brilliant and great in analysing every situation and making the best of decisions. May we not get caught up with our ideas and brilliance and brag about ourselves but rather submit ourselves and our ideas before the matchless brilliance of God. Be with us Holy Spirit as we submit our plans to God so that they become the best and the greatest plans for the day and bring out the best in us and in others. May all glory and praise be to you God. Amen.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Thanksgiving prayer on Sunday

Thank you God for creating me as I am with small faults but having many skills and blessings. Thank you for the land that I live in, the family and friends that I have, the people I have met, the things I have accomplished and the life that I have received thus far. Give me the mind and the time today Lord to think of all who have contributed to my success and happy life and to be thankful to each one. As I remember their role in my life, accept my prayers for them God and bless them with everything that they need and keep angels to guard over them and give them what they yearn for. May I take time out today Jesus and look back at my life the past week and recreate the blessings I have received. Each blessing has come through someone and as I thank you for giving me what I needed, I wish well and pray for the channels of my blessings. Accept my prayers God and bless everyone I have seen, talked to, interacted with and thought about. May my overflowing cup of blessings be of comfort and hope for all I have and all I know Holy Spirit. Bless us Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Prayer for jobs

We pray God for those who are looking for jobs and those who are finding it difficult to hold on to the job that they have. Guide those who are looking for a job to get one which will make use of their ability and qualification. Strengthen those with a job to learn the trade and perform well. We submit everyone to your care so that people struggling to find a job may not get desperate and find it difficult to face people. Jesus, we pray specially for those who move jobs or find their calling in something different from what others do. May new jobs be created and may new opportunities arise because of creative thinking and alternative ideas. We pray Jesus for job creating industries and communities which identify their responsibility of feeding families. May churches use their spaces to offer accommodation to young people searching for jobs and use their elaborate network to help in job searching and finding. We pray Holy Spirit for courage, inspiration and positive thinking for young and middle aged people so that they continue knocking on doors till one opens. May your church merciful God teach about the dignity of labour so that every job is one which has respect and dignity. May your doors of grace dear Lord open for your people. Amen.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Prayer to unleash the power of God inside us

Help us God to identify the power of the image of God that we are created in. May we not step back thinking that we are ordinary and simple people who can't make a difference in this world. Instead, allow us to connect with our soul so that we can see the sufferings in life and react accordingly to them. Today, make us think that we don't need the usual things of the world to succeed but only need to uncover the image of God inside us. Lord, may this understanding inspire people from ordinary backgrounds, bereft of flashy degrees and societal success to come out and do their best by believing profoundly and deeply in God. Jesus, may we not hide in the comfort of the weekend but explore the power of our mind which is fed by unending faith in God. Someone is waiting for us to speak and act, to make a difference and to change something. May we use the power Peter had to say that "Silver and gold I have none, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk." May our prayer this weekend trigger healing, fight injustice and bring happiness. Today we hold on to you Holy Spirit and believe that indeed we can change the world for the good. In your name triune God we pray. Amen.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Prayer to overcome depression

Gracious God, we pray for all those who are depressed because of various reasons. We submit those who have family problems, lack of a job, tensions at the work place, pressure in schools and colleges and are depressed because of the huge expectations that society has from them. Help us to admit that we need help and prayers and that we need to reach out to various people using our own experiences and stories of having undergone depression. Jesus, help us to help ourselves and others so that we and others don't get too desperate and take extreme measures. Instead, allow us to build communities of love and understanding like you did. As anyone could come to you and get help, may we be of help to those who approach us. Strengthen us Holy Spirit to overcome depression in its various forms so that we will live the life that God wants us to. Teach us to not ignore and push away those who are depressed or on the verge of depression and instead treat it as an emotion that all of us go through. Rescue us and those close to us dear Lord from the jaws of depression. Amen.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Prayer for best use of inventions during catastrophes

Lord God, we pray that you teach us well as to how we should use the inventions that you have inspired us to make. As we undergo a severe cyclone in several parts of the country we pray that governments and departments don't fight each other and pin the blame on one another. Instead, send the spirit of wisdom to each one to work as a team for saving lives and securing livelihoods. We pray for a responsible media that makes use of great technology with investigative and life saving reporting and not making a mockery of those affected. Help us Jesus to pray and help those who are at the receiving end of cyclones and heavy rain by sending food and clothes and helping in rehabilitation. May our prayers make us uncomfortable and push us to be in solidarity with those who suffer so that this natural catastrophe will be limited in causing damage. Be with us Holy Spirit so that every single brick of development will help people during worst crises instead of worsening them. Amen.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

A prayer for child like innocence

Allow us God to revisit our childhood and experience the innocence that made us children. May this weekend offer wonderful memories of how carefree and tension less we were as children. Dear God, may we for a little time forget deadlines, EMI's and work pressures and lie down on your inviting lap to close our eyes and feel comforted with your warmth and love. Help us Lord to truly unwind and release the pressures which have made us inhuman and angry. Speak to us Jesus and remind us of the virtue of being child like instead of always being adult, cold and ruthless. Join us and play with us Holy Spirit with the light, pleasing breeze that you are so that in the midst of all our problems we will trust your wisdom. May we dilute our problems with child modelled plans of relaxation and recharge ourselves with adventure and excitement from you God. Amen.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Prayer for the birthday of St. Mary

Dear God, as we celebrate the birthday of Mother Mary help us understand why you choose people for doing your work. Help us to accept your choice instead of always desiring what someone else has. Mother Mary was young, inexperienced, had no backing of the prevalent power structure and yet was chosen by God to bear his son. We understand now that she feared God but was fearless when it came to engaging with the injustice in society, her wisdom was much beyond her year's and she had love and compassion for people in the world. Help us today God to be fearless, to act beyond  our age when the need arises and to have love and compassion for the poor and needy. We pray for individuals in society who have been Mary like through their actions. Some of them have been attacked and done away with but never the less they live on like Mary. Help us Jesus to accept that we must be fearless in our life and not be scared of death. It is better to die with courage than to live with fear. May we intercede to Mary and become Mary in our life so that God selects us to be God's workers to bring about justice and peace in this world. Intercede for us Mother Mary, the fearless one selected by God. Amen.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Prayer to overcome wrongdoing

We commit ourselves God before you and offer ourselves for contemplation and correction. We look back at our life and seek your wisdom to understand and accept acts of hurt, misunderstanding, anger, hatred and high handedness that have come out of us. We seek forgiveness from you for every short coming and every insensitive remark or attitude that has slipped out from us. What has come out cannot be taken back but we can seek your forgiveness God to correct ourselves and learn to become better people. Help us to understand Jesus how we can look at the needs of people and give importance to them rather than to ourselves. Give us strength Holy Spirit to overcome our ego which is continuously tempting us to do evil and bad things. As we fold our hands God and pray, may it be a folding of our ego and our soul in commitment towards good and nice things. Amen.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Prayer for strength during grief

Give us we pray God the grace and understanding to grieve with those families who have lost a near and dear one. Show us the way to be with them, say words of comfort, be anything but judgemental, and offer our own stories of pain and grief as a means of empathetic friendship. Help us Jesus to offer hope like you did to Martha and Mary. We believe in you like they did and know that you are the resurrection and life. Those who believe in you will live even though they die. Lead us well Holy Spirit to pray for the departed that they rest in peace in paradise in the assuring presence of our fore fathers and fore mothers waiting with anticipation for the second coming of our Lord. May this hope lead us God to go to grieving homes with courage and strength to thank God for the life of those who move on to a better place while still being dear and valuable to their loved ones. Amen.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Prayer for Teacher's day

We thank you God for those who taught us and continue to teach us in schools and colleges and through conversations and messages. Our teachers inspired us, looked us in the eye and said we can do it, when people much closer had given up. We pray today for our teachers as they also need our prayers and good wishes. We take this day as all days to be thankful and respectful to what our teachers have done for us. We are guided by your life on earth Jesus to acknowledge the teachers who have taught us many things outside the class room and who stood for us when the world was against us. You made heroes out of ordinary disciples Jesus, and today we have become special because of your guidance and because of those who you chose to guide us. Thank you Holy Spirit for the spirit of commitment you have given to our teachers so that they taught us with very little and for even less but did it during sunshine and rain never for once giving up. Thank you Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.