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Be the gift

As 2023 draws to a close, it would be a brave man or woman who takes the time to remember the last 12 months.

Our news reports have been saturated by stories of war, global warming, natural disasters, financial crises, political instability, the ongoing reality of COVID-19, church leaders falling from grace and innocent lives devastated — the list goes on and on.

Preparing to celebrate Christmas 2023 feels heavy. I feel reluctant to ignore the reality of the world around me and lose myself in the merriment of the festivities. Parents struggling to make ends meet, feeling the weight of expectation under the tree. Fractured families navigating who to invite and who not to. Loneliness at an all-time high.

And as war tears this world apart, my heart breaks for those caught in the crossfire — mothers and fathers grieving the loss of their children and loved ones, crying out to God for justice in the midst of their pain, possibly unaware that He also feels their distress.

He has cried these tears before.


The backdrop to Jesus’ birth resulted in a great injustice that left mothers in Bethlehem and its vicinity grieving when King Herod, threatened by the prophecy of the coming Messiah, ordered the execution of all male children two years old and younger (Matthew 2:16).

Jesus Himself was born into a world of suffering and fear. Every loss of life grieves the Father’s heart. Seeing His children fighting each other on every level brings Him pain. He understands their agony — His own Son knowing what it feels like to be ‘overwhelmed with sorrow’ (Matthew 26:38).

Throughout the Scriptures, we see stories of the brokenness that besieges humanity, along with its tragic consequences.

It’s perfectly understandable to feel weary. It is easy, too, to ignore the heart crushing tragedies happening elsewhere as a means of self-protection. It is not for us to condemn those who feel that way. Perhaps we feel like that too. But as the conflicts get closer, and the traumas of our time shout louder, we should consider our response afresh.

So, what can we do?

Get praying

With so much going on, you could be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed as to where to start. Can I suggest that you find something far, something near and something dear to pray about?

Perhaps the fighting between Israel and Hamas, the latest in seven decades of conflict and unrest between Israelis and Palestinians that has drawn in outside powers and destabilised the wider Middle East could be your ‘far’ prayer.

The financial challenges facing so many families in the UK could be your ‘near’. And something specific within your own family or friendship group could count as your ‘dear’. Let your heart be led by the Holy Spirit as you intercede.

Why not commit to praying daily as part of your Advent countdown?

Get active

James Aladiran, founder of Prayer Storm, once said that we should be prepared to be the answer to our prayers. Often, when we pray, we say our ‘amens’ and then get on with life. But what if the Holy Spirit wants you to be part of the solution?

Consider your three areas of prayer and ask God to show you what actions you can take to help bring His Kingdom into the lives of those in need.

A food parcel for a neighbour, perhaps? Making room at the dinner table for someone on their own this Christmas? Donating to a charity working directly to help the victims of war?

Be bold and courageous. Give God permission to stir your heart and stretch your provisions for the sake of others.

Be thankful

Each day, give thanks for the little things of life, for opportunities to bless others and for the hope you have as a follower of Jesus. Imagine every prayer of thanksgiving to be fuel to the light that shines within you. The brighter it gets, the more it illuminates hope to those still searching.

We are not of this world (John 17:16), and the fallen world in which we live won’t have the final say. Remember Psalm 34:18 which reminds us that He is ‘close to the broken-hearted’, or Psalm 56:8 which comforts us with the words, ‘You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in Your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book’ (NLT).

So, even if your tears do fall, be thankful that He is close enough to catch them.

Be expectant

There will be a day when Jesus will return and establish His glorious Kingdom in full. Restoration will be complete. Until that day, we are called to be carriers of hope and beacons of light — compassionate and understanding, full of grace and forgiveness.

We are all signposts pointing to the One who loves, heals and redeems in ways we could never hope or imagine. Let this promise carry you as you reach out to others now and throughout 2024.

Maybe this could be our gift to the world this Christmas?