How to Pray on Christmas

The Christmas season gives us special opportunities for prayer. Though all prayer is good at all times, I think the birth of Christ lends primarily to prayers of petition and thanksgiving.

For inspiration, consider the following passage from Book 7 of St. Augustine’s Confessions:

“Then I sought a way of obtaining strength sufficient to enjoy Thee; and found it not, until I embraced that Mediator betwixt God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who is over all, God blessed for evermore, calling unto me, and saying, I am the way, the truth, and the life, and mingling that food which I was unable to receive, with our flesh. For, the Word was made flesh, that Thy wisdom, whereby Thou createdst all things, might provide milk for our infant state. For I did not hold to my Lord Jesus Christ, I, humbled, to the Humble; nor knew I yet whereto His infirmity would guide us. For Thy Word, the Eternal Truth, far above the higher parts of Thy Creation, raises up the subdued unto Itself: but in this lower world built for Itself a lowly habitation of our clay, whereby to abase from themselves such as would be subdued, and bring them over to Himself; allaying their swelling, and fomenting their love; to the end they might go on no further in self-confidence, but rather consent to become weak, seeing before their feet the Divinity weak by taking our coats of skin; and wearied, might cast themselves down upon It, and It rising, might lift them up.”

There is plenty to be expounded from this verse, for it contains the heart of the Christmas story (which is really the heart of Christianity). St. Augustine is actually describing the Good News. We look for the strength to enjoy God, to be holy and moral people, but we are naturally weak. The only way to find the strength is to embrace the mediator between God and men – the man Jesus Christ. By embracing Christ, we embrace what is Divine. God made himself man for this very purpose, so that we might meet him on our level. God became human so that humans might be made God. Run to Christ! He has given us a way out of sin! He has given us the gift of God!

This is the Good News, the Christmas story, the Christian message. We have the chance to respond in prayer, and it seems to me there are two obvious responses.

The first (thanksgiving) is one we often forget: “Thank you, my God, for your Son Jesus Christ! Thank you for the gift of the incarnation. Thank you for becoming man.”

The second (petition) is to address Christ himself, the little baby lying peacefully in the manger: “Lord Jesus, let me approach you with the shepherds. Let me contemplate you with the Magi. Let me hold you with Mary, and worship you with angels. Let me be united to you in every way. Let your life be my life. Please bring me to the Father. Give me the strength to love God.” 

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