Presbyterians Today

NOV-DEC 2018

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Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay | NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2018 5 Jack Henderson and his younger brother, Tyler, thought it would be a nice touch to trace one of their hands inside the boxes' lids. With a blue marker, they took the white lids of their discount-store plastic bins and traced their hands on them. They then wrote instructions to the child who would open the box: "Place your hand here and we can pray together. God bless you!" It was a Christmas reminder that while toys and clothing are great gifts, prayer is also a great gift to share with others. GIVING THE GIFT OF PRAYER Children give a holy high-five Every year, congregations ask for donations of toys and clothing as Christmas presents for children in need. Many times, these gifts are wrapped with colorful paper and topped with glisten- ing bows. One Christmas season, three years ago, the mission team at West Nottingham Presbyterian Church in Colora, Maryland, participated in a project that involved placing Christmas goodies in boxes to be delivered to children. As to be expected with a more than generous congregation, the gifts poured in and boxes piled high, creating a mountain on the table in the secretary's office. But there were more than toys and trinkets in those boxes. Under the box lids was a special gift — well, more like a special invitation. PC(USA) Snapshot Source: Mind Mental Health Charity research, December 2016 Graphic by Jeffrey Lawrence out of (Ages 25–34) have no one to spend Christmas with, compared to 1 out of 20 people ages 65+ 1 10 Millennials in Advent. It has helped me to prepare for Christmas differently, seeing that God never asked for us to buy so many presents or to run ourselves ragged in baking cookies, decorating our homes and attending parties. (Running ourselves ragged happens in the church, too. We fall victim to over-programming and over-decorat- ing, thus overshadowing the stark beauty of Advent, when four simple candles around a wreath is plenty enough light to guide us to the Christ child.) And when my 10-year-old self begins emerging, as she sometimes does, it's time for me to pack a turkey sandwich and head into the woods for an Advent hike. It is there in the stillness I can rework my Christmas list to be more in line with the one my family made so many years ago. It is there in the stillness I remember another list written long ago by a prophet named Isaiah. His read: Bring good news to the oppressed. Bind up the broken- hearted. Proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners. Now that's a good Christmas list, don't you think? Donna Frischknecht Jackson is editor of Presbyterians Today and a rural pastor living in Vermont. She once offered Advent hikes to her congregation, but no one else joined her. There were other Christmas events planned every weekend in the small village she served. She still packs a turkey sandwich and heads into the woods on Black Friday — alone, with her Bernese mountain dog. Do you have news to share as to how God is at work in your community? Send stories, 150–200 words, to editor@pcusa.org. An invitation to "join hands" and pray was placed under the lids of gift boxes that West Nottingham Presbyterian Church's mission team put together. DONNA FRISCHKNECHT JACKSON

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