Where I'll stay: Christmas 2017

Last year a 6th grade student in Belleville wrote a Christmas Prayer. It was shared in the Christmas mailing from the Poor Clares' convent. It has totally charmed me and I’d like to let Caroline be the giver of our Christmas message today. Here’s the prayer:

O Jesus, Emmanuel
O King of Kings,
O Messiah, O Savior,
O Prince of Peace,
O Lord of Lords,
O Baby Jesus,
Happy Birthday
and have mercy on me.
Please bless me.
Please save me.
Please show me the way.
Lead me to Your Heart,
And that’s where I’ll stay.
Amen.


“O Jesus,” Caroline begins, and that’s already a prayer. Did you know there’s an ancient Christian tradition of prayer that is simply the repetition of Jesus’ name? If that’s as far as you get in a prayer, it’s a good one. “Jesus.” There is no theological statement here. There is no doctrine. Those have their place; they are indispensable, but not the first thing. The first thing can only be expressed by a name: the presence of someone. The reality of someone you know, someone who is right there with you to be spoken to, trusted, and loved. Sometimes you can’t find a single word to say to God that makes any sense. But you can always speak the Name of your friend. Every prayer starts here, and even if it goes no farther, it’s a complete and beautiful prayer. “Jesus.”

“O King of Kings, O Messiah, O Savior, O Prince of Peace, O Lord of Lords.” He’s not the sort of King we’re used to. He’s the King behind and above all kingship. His power is without limit… and yet He is the Prince not of power and force, but of Peace. It’s easy to imagine a god strong enough to punish and kill, easy to imagine a divine being who is strong enough to shatter worlds and crush enemies. But we learn at Christmas, and will learn through His life and His death, that those things are not real strength. Can you believe in a God who is strong enough to be weak? Who is powerful enough to be powerless?

Nativity at the Tiroler Volkskunstmuseum, Innsbruck


There’s a paradox here, and maybe a great theologian could explain it in a few hundred pages, but Caroline’s prayer gets it in three words: “O Baby Jesus.” A helpless omnipotence. A tiny Divinity. A baby laying in a feed trough, in a cave-stable behind the inn, and that’s the King of all the other Kings, that’s the Messiah, that’s the way He saves us… that’s our God.

“O Baby Jesus.” God became one of us, and He became one of us at our smallest and most helpless and vulnerable. He created the universe with a Word. Now He can’t even support his own head. It’s the best way He could have come to us, though we never would have dreamed of anything so crazy. But God wants our hearts. And there’s nothing so irresistibly lovable as a baby, is there? We’re tragically prone to taking our eyes off the God who calls us, but just try to take your eyes off a baby. Here is God wanting to be irresistible to us, not to compel our fear by coming with power, but to win our hearts by coming as a baby. Meditate on that, and you’ll learn much about Who our God is.

Happy Birthday, the prayer says, and it’s a perfectly fitting and beautiful sentiment. He came into our story, truly one of us, He has a birthday! “And have mercy on me. Please bless me. Please save me. Please show me the way.” These are simple and humble prayers of need. We come into this stable, we kneel before this manger, because we come in need. Please bless me. Please save me. Please show me the way. Is there anybody here who can’t put your whole heart into those words? Please bless me. Please save me. Please show me the way.

We have our needs and our hurts and our confusions, and they are our own; we can each fill in those blanks very personally. Jesus knows them. We can make those prayers with childlike trust. But this prayer ends with our real need. “Lead me to Your Heart, and that’s where I’ll stay.”

And thus this prayer ends as perfectly as it begins. Beyond every need, every desire, every question, our happiness is found only in the Heart of Jesus. It’s what we were made for. Everything else will let us down if we place our hope in it, because only the Heart of Jesus is our heaven. This heart has been beating nine months unseen within the womb of Mother Mary. This heart is felt and held close by her and by Joseph against the cold of night. This heart will later feel the cold of a spearpoint; it will be pierced and opened physically and literally as it has always been open in love. This heart burns with the love that moves the stars. This heart will falter and stop and cool to the ambient temperature of another borrowed cave… this time, a tomb. And then it will beat again. Forever. And if you will allow, it will now beat in your breast.


O Jesus, Emmanuel
O King of Kings,
O Messiah, O Savior,
O Prince of Peace,
O Lord of Lords,
O Baby Jesus,
Happy Birthday
and have mercy on me.
Please bless me.
Please save me.
Please show me the way.
Lead me to Your Heart,
And that’s where I’ll stay.
Amen.

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