Jesus seeks the forgotten, the downtrodden and the rejected people of this world.
Why? Because He embodies God's love. He also understands the plight of the rejected: He was born an outcast.
On the first Christmas Eve, the subjects of the Roman Empire were scrambling for shelter in their ancestral towns while obeying Caesar Augustus' order to register for the imperial census. Joseph, arriving late in Bethlehem with a very pregnant Mary, didn't scramble fast enough.
Even if he had, he probably lacked the money a decent room would have cost that night in the crowded town. Mary gave birth in a stable, wrapped the newborn Jesus in cloths and laid him a manger, “because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).
No room at the inn. So many people—and peoples—still live outside the realms of security, prosperity or influence. They have no room at the table of society. But there's something much worse: having no room in the house of God. Such is the reality for millions who don't know that Jesus Christ understands their loneliness and isolation, that he is seeking them for his own.
As Christmas approaches, join once again with Baptist workers around the world in praying for people searching for the star of Bethlehem—beginning in Bethlehem itself. The town where Jesus was born is now home to increasingly desperate Palestinians, caught in a violent struggle between factions competing for power.
“The Christmas season causes us to remember the birthplace of Jesus Christ,” writes a worker in the Middle East. “Yet today, most Palestinians living in Bethlehem live in spiritual darkness, untouched by the Savior from their own hometown. Pray for Palestinian shepherds who still stand watch in the fields to behold the glory of God. Pray for Palestinians living in that little town of Bethlehem to open their hearts to the Savior.”
Similar requests come from other places:
• “Over the past few months,” writes a mission worker in Nicaragua, “I have been very concerned about a gang that has appeared over and over in the newspapers. They have had violent confrontations with another gang, where deaths are involved on both sides. When I met one of the leaders of the gang, my heart went out to this young man. A few weeks ago, another gang member cut his head open on the side with a machete. Recently he was shot twice in the leg. He has slowly opened up his heart and is listening, along with the others in the gang, about Jesus. Please pray that this young man will give his heart to the Lord and that he will be healed from all his physical and spiritual wounds.” Thousands of other young Latin Americans need the same kind of healing.
• On the first day of the Hajj (Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca), which begins around Dec. 29, pilgrims travel to Mina, a small village east of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. They spend the day and night praying, meditating and reading the Quran. Pray that they will earnestly seek the true God and that Jesus will appear to them in visions and dreams. On the second day, pilgrims travel to the Plain of Arafat where they spend the entire day standing or sitting near the Mount of Mercy, asking Allah for forgiveness and making supplications. Pray that the pilgrims will leave this place seeing their need for a Savior who can truly rescue them from their sins.
• In one of the centers of global Christian growth, many people still struggle in darkness. An average of 38 suicides a day occurred in South Korea last year (about 24 suicides per 100,000 people—a rate more than twice as high as that in the United States and Canada). Pray for Korean Christians to reach out to those who are depressed and have lost hope.
• Missionaries Eric and Ramona Reese serve among the poorest of society in a slum of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The people often lack running water, electricity and sewage systems; drugs and corruption plague the area. Pray that the Holy Spirit will change lives and communities. Pray for the Quintanilha Baptist Mission, a congregation of 60, as it lifts the light in this dark place.
• Of the 1,600 different people groups in West Africa almost 25 percent have no Christian witness. During December, however, many people show an interest in learning more about Christmas. Pray that missionaries and local believers will have unprecedented opportunities to share their faith. One worker writes: “May we be faithful in this holiday season to give fully the most perfect gift of all: Jesus!”
• In South Asia, a local believer lost all three of his children in the massive tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004. He survived only by hanging on to a tree to keep from being washed out to sea. He later began an orphanage called Nambakkai (“Hope”) for children who lost their parents in the tsunami. Praise God for his ministry among these children—and for giving him and his wife a new baby son. Ask God to continue blessing this family as instruments of his grace, leading to the salvation of many.
• “Xavier,” a Catalonian living in Western Europe, lost everything to his drug addiction. He developed AIDS and walked the dark streets of the city, eating from dumpsters and looking for drugs and a place to sleep at night. People would pass by and ignore him—until the day someone handed him a gospel tract. Today, Xavier is a “restored treasure.” A mission worker explains: “(According to) Matthew 13:44, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field …. “Lord, thank you for reminding us through your Word that seekers are valuable to you, regardless of their social status.”
There is room for everyone at God's inn this Christmas. Through prayer, go out into the highways and byways to invite them in.
Erich Bridges is a senior writer for the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board.