Around 2010, my wife, Amy, and I began a new Christmas tradition that extends throughout the year. It wasn’t our idea, mind you. We were watching a holiday feature on then-University of Georgia head football coach Mark Richt and his wife, Kathryn. Richt said instead of tossing the Christmas cards they receive every year, they keep them. Then every night at dinner, they’d pull one card from the pile and pray over that family or individual.
Amy and I loved that idea. We placed all the Christmas cards we received that year into a small paper bag we’d hung inside a kitchen cabinet. At dinner, we’d pull a card, give thanks for the meal and lift up whoever had given us the card. We even took turns praying. If it was one of my co-workers or family members, I’d pray. If it was a friend of our boys, we’d have them pray.
Through the years, word has gotten out about our tradition. We have texted friends a photo of the card they sent us the previous year and let them know we prayed for them that evening. We’ve posted a couple of pictures on social media as well — not to draw attention to ourselves but to let people know they were prayed over. Friends and co-workers who saw our posts or heard us talk about this tradition have told us, “I don’t send out Christmas cards anymore, but I’m sending one to you because I want you to pray for me!”
It’s become a game of sorts. We never look inside the bag when we pull out a card. We fish around like we’re pulling a raffle ticket, not knowing who the “lucky winner” will be. If we go through all the cards in a year, we put them back in the bag and pray over them again. In fact, we now keep two years’ worth of cards and cycle through them.
There have been times when I’ve pulled a card for a family we just prayed for a night or two before. I’ve said, “We just prayed for them this week. I’ll draw another card,” but Amy will stop me. She says, “Perhaps they really need our prayers right now.” And we pray for them again.
Without a doubt, the most significant impact from this tradition involved our son, Chandler. When he was about 7, I distinctly remember Amy praying for a friend who didn’t have a relationship with the Lord. She prayed Jesus would knock on her friend’s heart and draw her to him. Afterward, Chandler started asking questions — “What did you mean by that prayer? That person doesn’t know who Jesus is?”
We had a terrific conversation with our kids that evening as we ate. Our older son, Chaz, who was about 11, already had put his faith in Christ, but Chandler had not made that decision yet. That was about to change, though.
Throughout the evening, I felt the Holy Spirit encouraging me to follow up with Chandler about our dinner discussion. As I was putting him to bed, I knelt by his bedside and said, “Buddy, you remember what we talked about at dinner?” He nodded. I said, “You know, if you know who Jesus is, you can ask him to come into your heart whenever you are ready.” Not missing this precious opportunity, I continued. “If you’d like to do that right now, I can help you.” Chandler said he was ready. I asked a few simple questions to make sure he understood then led him in a prayer that he repeated.
Eternity changed for my son that night, all because of a simple tradition we picked up from the Richt family.
This Christmas, perhaps you’ll want to keep your cards. Whether you pull out one each night or one each week, you’ll never know exactly how God will use it in your life or someone else’s!
– C.A. Phillips serves as communications pastor and director of men’s groups at NorthStar Church. He oversees Over the Hump, a weekly online devotional. northstarchurch.org/lockerroom.