Unwrapping precious gifts

6 December 2015 - 6 January 2016

Thank you for joining us on this journey over the Christmas season.
We hope you’ve found it helpful and have had time to reflect on the most precious gift of all.

What difference will your gift make this new year?

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6 December, 2015

Feast day of St Nicholas

Around the world today lots of people are celebrating St Nicholas' Day. Many stories surround this renowned saint, who is known for bringing gifts variously to young maidens, sailors and children. His generosity and compassion for others is a common thread between the tales and a wonderful example to follow. Nicholas gave in secret, alert to others' needs, and expecting nothing for himself in return.

Spend time reflecting on who you are generous to. In what ways do you show this kind of generosity to others?

Image of Christian iconography
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7 December, 2015

A preventable problem

This Christmas we are turning our minds to Nigeria. Every year around 250,000 children die in Nigeria because of malaria. Yet this disease is entirely preventable.

In communities like Ora-Eri, in south-east Nigeria, a warm, humid climate makes the perfect breeding ground for mosquitos who carry malaria. Many families don't realise the importance of bed nets in stopping malaria transmission, or don't understand how to use their nets for maximum protection.

Pray for doctors treating children with malaria today.

Nigerian health worker
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8 December, 2015

Wandering away

'The Lord said to Moses, "Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them..."' (Exodus 32:7-8)

Throughout the Old Testament, we see God's people regularly turning their backs on God, following false prophets and losing their faith in what God has in store for them.

Read Exodus 32:1-14 and pause to consider moments in your life when your faith has wavered. What did the Israelites need to get them back on track? What has helped you deal with doubts or wandering from God?

Two small children in rural Nigeria
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9 December, 2015

A season of anxieties?

For many of us, Christmas can be an anxious time. We often get caught up in all the busyness of preparing for Christmas Day, and lose sight of its real significance.

Spend a few moments now reflecting on what Christmas means to you. What will you be celebrating? What will you want to remember over the coming weeks? Offer up in prayer everything that might cause anxiety or distract you from celebrating Jesus' birth.

Oxford Street in London
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10 December, 2015

Double heartbreak for Mary

Mary Patrick Odey had seven children and recently became a grandmother.

Her son Keneckukwu was four years old when he complained of a headache and fever. Within a week he had died.

Then her six-year-old daughter, Anah, came home from school one day feeling sick with a stomach ache, and developed a persistent fever. The only medicine Mary Patrick knew about was from a traditional healer, and it couldn't cure Anah. Although Mary Patrick didn't realise it at the time, both children had died of malaria.

Put yourself in Mary Patrick's shoes, knowing you did the best you were able to for your children. Imagine the heartache that could have been saved if Mary Patrick had just known a little bit more about malaria and how to prevent it.

Mary Patrick Odey
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11 December, 2015

The promise of dawn

We often read Isaiah 9:1-7 at Christmas time, as we celebrate God stepping into our world of troubles. For the people of Israel to whom Isaiah spoke, these words were a certain promise that God had not forgotten or given up on them, and that he would reign with justice and righteousness.

God’s promise in this passage reminds us of the present and coming reality of the kingdom of God, encouraging us to trust him with the world’s difficulties and the turmoil we sometimes face in our individual lives.

With Mary Patrick in mind, meditate on Isaiah 9:2:

'The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who have lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined.'

A young African man reading the Bible
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12 December, 2015

Knowing your needs

Take time today to reflect on what your real needs are. Think of both the physical and the spiritual, not prioritising one at the expense of the other.

How easy do you find it to be really vulnerable with God? How naturally does it come to you to acknowledge your need for help, healing or wholeness?

Thank God for all the gifts you’ve been given, and reflect on Jesus' words in Matthew 6:31-34 as you ask the Father for what you need.

A young African boy standing in a field as it starts to rain
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13 December, 2015

A royal detour

'After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him."' (Matthew 2:1-2)

The Wise Men are well known figures in the Christmas story, dedicated seekers who responded to a long-awaited sign. But they didn't get everything right first time.

In the verses above, what assumptions had the Magi made about the birth of the king of the Jews? What false expectations might they have had about Jesus?

Four camels walking across a rocky landscape
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14 December, 2015

Surprising stories

While we might all think that we know the Christmas story back to front and inside out, it's easy to be surprised by how the gospels tell the story. Try writing out the events in as much detail as you can from memory – then compare your version with Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2.

What details did you forget? Was there anything you included that the Bible never tells us? Where do our extra assumptions about Jesus' birth come from?

A goat herder tending his herd
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15 December, 2015

Clear as mud

In many communities in Nigeria, misunderstandings about malaria are very common. Twenty-two year old Martha, who has already lost a child to the disease, says 'I can’t really say how you get malaria but I think it's from the river water I fetch. To prevent it, first of all I'd stop drinking the water.' She also believes that 'it's possible that you can catch malaria. One of my in-laws had malaria and before you know it, the wife also got malaria.’

Malaria is not a contagious disease, nor is it waterborne. Imagine the difference it could make to Martha's life if she were taught the facts about malaria and how to prevent it.

A young girl drinking from a tin cup
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16 December, 2015

A most unusual man

'The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now you will conceive in your womb and bear a son and you will name him Jesus."... Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" (Luke 1:30-31, 34)

While Jesus walked the earth he challenged many assumptions, not least by his birth. Instead of being born into a conventional family set-up, which was the only socially and religiously acceptable context for childbirth, he was born outside of marriage.

In what other ways did Jesus, throughout his life, challenge what people expected from a religious teacher, indeed from the Messiah?

A Bible and cross on a purple table
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17 December, 2015

Back to basics

Prayer is a privilege and a gift – time spent in God's presence, listening and seeking God's guidance in our lives is one of the great joys of Christian life. But how often do we make time for this kind of prayer?

All too often we are all guilty of treating God like a vending machine, using our prayers as a shopping list. Perhaps we are prone to forget the real pleasure of deepening our relationship with him.

Spend time today reflecting on the true gift of Jesus as Emmanuel, God with us.

A group of African women praying
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18 December, 2015

Unwanted gifts

Being given the gift of a mosquito net doesn't make sense to many people in Nigeria, who have never been told what it is or why they need it. This leads to widespread misuse of nets – instead of being hung over beds as they're meant to be, they are stapled to windows, used as fishing nets or hung over crops. Dasu Yakubu, who works for a Christian Aid partner in Nigeria, said that he has even seen someone wearing a net as a wedding gown!

If nets are not enough, what else might be needed to stop this killer disease?

A young African girl standing next to a baby, held by its mother
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19 December, 2015

Make time today to lay aside your expectations, for your day, for Christmas. What might God be trying to say to you?

An African women mixing a bowl of grain
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20 December, 2015

A changed family

Ngozi Udegbunam is a volunteer community health agent, trained by a Christian Aid partner in malaria awareness, education and prevention. She has two children, Elizabeth aged 15 and Richard aged 12.

Ngozi and her family used to get malaria every few months. But since taking part in the training, and making changes to their lives to prevent malaria, there's only been one case in the family; her elderly mother refuses to sleep under the mosquito net.

Ngozi Udegbunam wearing a yello 'Malaria kills' t-shirt
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21 December, 2015

Especially for...who?

As Christmas day approaches, the need to buy something, anything, for a family member or friend grows more and more pressing. But when you're loitering in the 3 for 2 aisle, or browsing the 'amusing but will never be used' gimmicks, stop for a moment and consider – what do our loved ones want and need from us most? Could you pledge some quality time together, give an evening's babysitting, or make something creative and personal?

Challenge yourself to be a clever giver this Christmas.

A young women under a lot of shop sale signs
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22 December, 2015

Watching and waiting

Despite all the surprise circumstances of Jesus' birth, those who were listening to God knew and recognised Jesus as the promised Son of God when they saw him. When Jesus was taken to the temple as an infant, he was embraced by Simeon, a righteous and devout man who prophesied over him.

Read more about the encounter in Luke 2:25-35 and then consider:

Are there particular promises of God that have been significant for you? Where do you see signs in your life of God's faithfulness to his word?

A close up shot of an old woman's hands planting seeds
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23 December, 2015

The message spreads

Mary Grace, 38, has four children. Her fifth child died of malaria. Just as Mary Patrick had done, Mary Grace did all she could to save her son Simon. He was sick for three weeks before he died.

Community health agent Ngozi now visits the home of Mary Grace, who says, 'I remember the first time Ngozi visited us. She told me she had something to explain to me. She opened this big book with illustrations and started asking me to identify what the pictures were saying. I only learnt about malaria from Ngozi.' Now, if someone in Mary Grace's family is unwell she takes them to the clinic.

Thank God for the people who have been the greatest gifts in your life.

Ngozi Udegbunam meeting Mary Grace and her baby
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24 December, 2015

Let us adore him

Christmas day is nearly here! As the last minute wrapping is completed, take a moment of stillness today to worship Jesus, God’s perfect gift to us.

What difference does knowing him make in your life?

A woman holding a sparkler in front of her
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25 December, 2015

Christmas Day!

'And the Word became flesh and lived among us...' (John 1:14)

A newborn African baby
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26 December, 2015

Saviour, teacher, counsellor, friend...what does Jesus mean to you?

A father walking with his young son through a rural African landscape
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27 December, 2015

Contagious encounters

'[Andrew] first found his brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus...' (John 1:41-42a)

The great thing about gratitude is that it overflows beyond ourselves. Throughout the gospels, people who meet Jesus find their excitement overflowing and they share the gift they’ve found.

Can you think of other moments in the Bible when people who'd met Jesus were glad to spread the word?

Many Indian women with their arms held aloft
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28 December, 2015

The ripple effect

It takes more than a net to beat malaria – it takes knowledge, sharing, and people coming together.

Christian Aid helps set up Community Development Committees, local people who aim to make sure their government provides free malaria treatment to clinics.

By holding their leaders to account, these committees can stop many more people dying from malaria. Give thanks for those who are prepared to use their time, their energy and their voices to keep others safe.

A Community Development Committee meeting
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29 December, 2015

Neighbourly love

Jesus demonstrates the gift of God's love for all humanity, and it's a love we can share with those around us. How do you currently share God's love with those in your community? At Christmas time many of us take opportunities to support poor and vulnerable people in our neighbourhoods, perhaps through food banks or night shelters.

Whether you found time to do extra or not, are there ways you might want to think about demonstrating God's love practically in the New Year? Pray for social outreach projects in your area today.

A Christian Aid worker handing supplies to a mother and child
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30 December, 2015

If you knew...

Read John 4:7-30. At what point do you think the Samaritan woman understood who she was speaking to? What do we learn about Jesus in this passage? If you were the Samaritan woman, what would be the first thing that you'd share about Jesus when you returned to the city?

A smiling woman holding a large metal water carrying jar
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31 December, 2015

Agents of change

Community health agents (CHAs) are volunteers within their own communities, working as agents of change. They go from house to house teaching people how to prevent malaria and identify symptoms, and encouraging people to seek treatment.

Ngozi can see the difference the CHAs like her are making: 'Malaria is reducing in this area', she says. 'Many people used to suffer from it before but now the figures are less. That's because we are using the mosquito nets and keeping our environment clean.'

Thank God for the lives that have already been saved through the work of community health agents.

Ngozi Udegbunam meeting two villagers
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1 January, 2016

Going global

There are many people around the world for whom life is a daily struggle, who don’t experience the fullness of life that Jesus came to bring.

In what ways do you already demonstrate God’s love for all by improving the lives of those living in poverty? Are there other ways you could give, act and pray for change?

An African woman with a jug of water
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2 January, 2016

'For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.' (Matthew 6:21)

A young African boy leaning out of a window
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3 January, 2016

Need for nets

We've heard the difference that a mosquito net can make, provided it is used correctly. Insecticide treated mosquito nets cost just £3 in Nigeria and are distributed to families who need them by our partner.

Could your gift this Christmas help protect someone from malaria while they sleep? The UK Government will match your gift, turning it into £6 to support people in poverty.

A mother fitting a mosquito net to her child's bed
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4 January, 2016

Train a tireless worker

Ezekiel is a passionate church leader who has volunteered to be a community health agent and currently is undergoing training on malaria prevention. He is very happy for the opportunity and is eager to spread his knowledge of health messages to his family and wider community. When he has completed his training he hopes to reach 185 families in his community.

To train Ezekiel, and other community health agents who volunteer their time costs just £20.

Ezekiel talking to a group of community members
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5 January, 2016

A new generation

We all know that children have a big impact on our lives. Our partners recognise the influence that children can have, so teach them about malaria and the importance of using a net. £45 could teach a class of 30 children this vital information.

Anurika is living proof that this programme is working. She used to rely on herbal treatments for her ailments, but her six-year-old daughter has taught her to use her mosquito net. When Anurika became pregnant, her daughter insisted that she attend the antenatal clinic!

Demonstrating usage of a mosquito net
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6 January, 2016

Epiphany at last!

Today marks the day that many Christians around the world celebrate the Magi visiting Jesus. We remember the gifts that they brought with them of gold, frankincense and myrrh – strange but wonderful gifts for the new born King, which spoke of the great meaning and significance of this child's life.

Consider how your gifts could be an act of worship. Pray for the difference that you hope will be brought about through your generosity.

Donate today and help us change lives forever.

Three women with mosquito nets
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As Christmas approaches, and days get even busier it can be easy to forget to take time out to reflect and pray.

Download this reminder for your digital calendar now so that you’re prompted to seek some quiet each day this Christmas.

Use the links below to download the file to your computer or Apple device, open it, then save and close.

Download for Outlook and Calendar Download for Google Calendar