I was happy to see this article come across my feed: Powerful prayer: A Christ-centered Thanksgiving & Christmas by Greg Frizzell. Well, why not? After all, 'tis the season once again! Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we can all commit to adding more prayer and more service and more JESUS into our lives.
We'll blog more about this below, but first, here's a few snips from the article:
"In a world where Thanksgiving and Christmas are over-commercialized, it is all too easy to forget the true meaning of the season. Even in the church, believers can end up doing so many special meals and programs "about" Christ. There is little time to actually talk to Him.
"Too often, we give personal time, attention and gifts to everyone but Jesus. Yet, with just a little focus, Thanksgiving and Christmas can again be about Jesus, not just food and programs. Believers can make a commitment to draw near to the Lord in extra prayer and service to others.
"1. Spend special time thanking God for the priceless gift of Christ's coming.
"2. Set aside individual and family time to ask Jesus what we should give Him for Christmas.
"3. Pray about people who need special help or a word of encouragement."
I encourage you to click on the link and read this whole article; it has many suggestion for you and your family!
Click to read more
Let's start with Thanksgiving
The suggestions in the featured article above are quite good - for Christians and Urantia Book readers alike, so I recommend a read-through of those for inspiration.
As for prayer, here are some Scriptural prayers of thanksgiving from Paper 131: The World's Religions in The Urantia Book
131:1.8 "At all times call upon his name, and as you believe in his name, so shall your prayer be heard. What a great honor it is to worship the Most High! All the worlds and the universes worship the Most High. And with all your prayers give thanks—ascend to worship." (Cynicism)
131:2.7 "God is our Father; the Lord is our redeemer. God has created the universal hosts, and he preserves them all. His righteousness is like the mountains and his judgment like the great deep. He causes us to drink of the river of his pleasures, and in his light we shall see light. It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to the Most High; to show forth loving- kindness in the morning and the divine faithfulness every night." (Judaism)
131:10.6 "I will every day thank God for his unspeakable gifts; I will praise him for his wonderful works to the children of men. To me he is the Almighty, the Creator, the Power, and the Mercy, but best of all, he is my spirit Father..." (Our Religion)
And from Jesus:
146:2.15 14. Jesus deplored that so little of the spirit of thanksgiving was to be found in the prayers and worship of his followers. He quoted from the Scriptures on this occasion, saying: "It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to the name of the Most High, to acknowledge his loving- kindness every morning and his faithfulness every night, for God has made me glad through his work. In everything I will give thanks according to the will of God."
Jesus was in the habit of thanking God often, and those quotes can be easily found if you search for that word; and we should always do likewise. Combining these prayers above into one might be a unique way to add a new kind of prayer into your family's holiday dinner this week.
146:2.16 15. And then Jesus said: "Be not constantly overanxious about your common needs. Be not apprehensive concerning the problems of your earthly existence, but in all these things by prayer and supplication, with the spirit of sincere thanksgiving, let your needs be spread out before your Father who is in heaven." Then he quoted from the Scriptures: "I will praise the name of God with a song and will magnify him with thanksgiving. "
These prayers are a good starting point, but as any Urantia Book reader knows, words are really irrelevant when it comes to praying, for the Father knows our hearts. When we approach him individually in a spirit of sincere gratitude and speak our hearts of thanksgiving to him, he hears. Maybe we can encourage all at our table to do so this year...
Give the gift of yourself, your time, your care...
Being grateful for the many gifts that we receive from God might be the perfect avenue to open our hearts to increased service this year. If you are so moved, an internet search for service opportunities in your area may provide you with many chances to reach out and help someone. Many are lonely, many are struggling financially, many feel sad or anxious or depressed; ministering to someone in need is a win-win solution...good for the recipient, good for the giver!
And then comes Christmas
Urantia Book readers know that the real birthday of Jesus occurs in August; nevertheless, most of those in the Urantia community also celebrate with the rest of the world in December, too...why not? It's always a good time to celebrate Jesus and his amazing bestowal.
In that spirit, here's a link to the Nativity Story in The Urantia Book.
And while youre at it, you might be greatly inspired to read about the events that preceded Jesus' birth - at the time right before he incarnated here as the babe of Bethlehem. If you have never read this account, you will be thrilled to read about the momentous planning and deliberation and preparation that took place before the Creator Son of God - aka Christ Michael of Nebadon - submitted himself to a life in mortal flesh.
Please see The Bestowal of Christ Michael
And The Seventh Bestowal
Holidays with Familiy and Friends
Celebrating with children at the holidays is especially fun. If you happen to have any kids in your life we'd like to share a wonderful page on our site called "Parenting and Family Life." Long-time reader/educator Sara Blackstock has written a series of inspiring articles with practical, inspiring ideas for engaging kids in their own spiritual growth while having fun doing it.
And from that collection of articles, here are a few examples of activities that can be done with children (and the young at heart) this holiday season as a means of recognizing God's love and being grateful for it:
Ceremony - Ritual Of Prayer & Candle Light: (All ages)
Light a candle every night, once a week, at families meetings, on special holidays, or on any other occasion. (As children get older, allow them to have the privilege of lighting the candle.) After you light the candle, say a little prayer of thanks: "Thank you God for your love which shines upon our family, our neighborhood, our community, our town, our country, our world, and the whole universe. We know your divine Light is in everyone."
And another activity that can involve the whole family:
Activity - A Fragment of God (6 to 12 years)
Spend some time working together on a beautiful jigsaw puzzle, preferable one with 1000 pieces or more. It should be set up someplace where family or group members can work on it over a period of time. This provides an excellent opportunity to point out how each piece is a part of the whole. When the puzzle is done, admire the wholeness of it, and use it as a metaphor to illustrate the wholeness of God. Have the children each choose and remove one piece of the puzzle, which represents them as a part of God's creation. Discuss how important each piece is to the wholeness of God, and how much more lovely the puzzle is when no pieces are missing. This is also symbolic of how each person holds a part of God, which is unique and irreplaceable. Point out that God never runs out of pieces. Note: For younger children a smaller puzzle can be used.
Remember making paper chains? This activity is fun for kids and adults alike, and this method helps them be mindful of God's goodness. The paper chains can decorate your home this season!
Activity - Paper Chain (All ages - even adults should find this fun to do!)
Per child provide 2 each of 8 different colored sheets of paper (preferably red, yellow, orange, green, blue, white, purple, and black), a small stapler, or glue.
Cut all the colored sheets into strips about 2 inches wide. (A paper cutter helps tremendously if this activity is to be with a group of children.)
Children select from the colored strips (that can represent the many colors and kinds of people in the world) and build a chain, which they make by gluing or stapling a strip into a circle and adding similar links as they go.
For groups, the chains can be hooked together to make a longer chain, which can then be used to decorate a room, a tree or bushes.
Affirmations can be written on the pieces of paper before they are made into chains, such as: "God loves everyone." "We are all connected." "What I do affects others."
For simple Christmas gifts that children can make and give, try this:
Activity - Jewel Inside Me (3 to 12 years)
Give each child a lump of clay and a jewel (anything pretty and shiny, but not expensive). Discuss how God lives in each person as they mold a figure of themselves with the clay. When the figure is done, ask each child to push the jewel into the heart area of the figure. The figure can be kept as a reminder that God lives in the heart of each one of his children. Or they can be given as gifts to remind someone else of their Special Friend.
Here are affirmations that can be recited by children (or anyone!) to help keep them walking in a mindful way with God:
Affirmations ( a great start for a group meditation)
Affirmations can be used in many ways on a regular basis and are always effective.
The following affirmations can be said or read by individuals or groups:
The light of God has been given to me. It is in me.
I will follow God's light and it will show me the best way to walk each day.
I carry a spark of God's divinity in my heart.
My body is the temple of God; I will honor the temple and take care of it.
God's light is in everyone. I can see God shining in each person I meet.
I kindle the spark of God within me by talking with God as a friend in my own heart and mind.
I kindle the spark of God within me by helping those around me.
I kindle the spark of God within me by thanking God for life and family and friends.
Finally, creating an altar in your home can be a wonderful experience for the whole family, too.What better time of year to make a new tradition that brings God into everyone's awareness?
Keep Consciousness of God active in your home this season
Whether you live alone or with others, making a commitment to dedicate your living space to God is a great thing to do.
If you do live alone, inviting one or two friends over for one of the activities above can be a sweet way to help each other celebrate the season. Add dinner or dessert and a time of prayer or meditation, and you've got a fabulous event that will leave all of you rhe better for it. Maybe you can make it a weekly get-together for the holiday season...it would be fun to help each other make a Jesus-centered holiday altar this year.
In our demanding world, it's always a good thing to try and slow down a little bit. Even at this traditionally busy time of the year, it's good to remember the ideals that are behind Thanksgiving - the value of gratitude to God, and carving out some quality time for sharing that goodness with others. Remember the non-material and simple values that lie behind it all. We can be in the world, but we don't have to let the world dictate how we celebrate!
Most importantly, it's good to spend some time to reflect on the gift that our world received in the form of a Son of God incarnating as a helpless little baby - who was to grow up and change the world for the better forevermore!
To access that story in its entirety, please go to THIS LINK!
Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas to all!