By Lyn Breen
A deeper longing than usual, to ‘hold loved ones close’ can spring up in human hearts in certain circumstances at certain times. It may happen at significant events, when major milestones mark the passage of the years, when an era is over, illness arrives, when there is a death, and in moments of great joy or grief. This longing has been felt deeply and expressed, by people of all ages in different ways, during our 2020 experiences of lockdown, isolation and separation from one another.
At Christmas, the memory of a Child, born to unite heaven and earth, to bring human beings close to God and to one another, will gather us together again. Even for those still physically separated from loved ones, technology will help us to find a way of connecting across the distances that divide us. It isn’t the same as a big hug, but we can ‘hold them close’ in a different way.
There are also other ways to ‘hold loved ones close’. The heartbreak of family divisions, and other forms of disconnection between family members and friends, which seem to make it impossible for there to be a closeness that is real and tangible, there can be offa different way to hold them near. We have God’s promise to hear us whenever we hold someone up in prayer. Here are some possibilities for Christmas and beyond, for another level of closeness with those who are near or far away:
CIRCLES OF PRAYER
On Christmas Day:
Take a few quiet moments during the day, or remembering at day’s end. Look at the face of each person present for the celebration or present in your memory. Gaze at each in turn, holding them in your heart, and lifting each to God in love.
Circles of Blessing Prayer for a New Year:
Take some time to know that God loves you and holds you close. Then, imagine or draw a circle around you, and further circles radiating out. Around the inmost circle, are the names of those closest to you - perhaps close family members and friends. Remember each individual in turn, hold them in your heart. Imagine lifting them up to God’s love and blessing. In the next circle, radiating out, are more names, perhaps more family members, more friends. Remember them in turn, bringing each to God for blessing. In the next circle are more names, perhaps work mates, sports or hobby groups, further acquaintainces and so on. Remember each person or group, holding each up to God for blessing. If and when you encounter someone with whom relationships are damaged or difficult, take a special moment for this prayer for God’s love and blessing. Ask God to bless you both! Take the circles out as far as you like to go.
At the start of a New Year, this is a way of ‘holding your loved ones close’. It is a prayer of blessing for you and for all who have touched your life. It is also a prayer that can reach out to the world.
A Blessing for Family and Home
May Jesus, son of Mary,
bless you and your family.
May your home be a place of friendship,
of deepening relationships of love.
May it be a place of safety and mutual care,
of new discoveries, of quiet,
of communication and laughter.
May it be a place where parents and children
find delight in each other’s company.
May it be a place of welcome
where relatives, friends and strangers find an open door.
May there be a special and compassionate welcome
for the needy, the homeless and the poor.
May God bless you in your home;
may it be filled with the harmony of music;
may there be joy in the sharing of meals;
may there often be the laughter of children;
may there be mutual support in times of distress
and encouragement in the times of celebration.
May the Healer of Galilee hold you close and
bestow his blessing on your family and your home. Amen.
(Adapted from the prayer of J. Johansen-Berg, England)
Lyn Breen, Adult Faith Education Sandhurst