I’ve done plenty of talking to you about Christmas this month. How about some wisdom from a far greater mind, that of author Henri Nouwen?
Henri Nouwen lived an incredible life of ministry in the 20th Century and wrote many powerful books. The Road To Daybreak is a journal of his first year living in the L’Arche community, a shelter for adults with special needs where he spent many of his later years serving some of the most needy souls. It’s an honest, heartbreaking, challenging diary of a man all-consumingly following God’s calling.
I just happened to be reading the chapter on Nouwen’s first Christmas in the community the other day. On the entry for December 23 Nouwen offers a humble Christmas prayer, and I wanted to share that with you today. Here is the prayer in full:
O Lord, how hard it is to accept your way. You come to me as a small, powerless child born away from home. You live for me as a stranger in your own land. You die for me as a criminal outside the walls of the city, rejected by your own people, misunderstood by your friends, and feeling abandoned by your God.
As I prepare to celebrate your birth, I am trying to feel loved, accepted, and at home in this world, and I am trying to overcome the feelings of alienation and separation which continue to assail me. But I wonder now if my deep sense of homelessness does not bring me closer to you than my occasional feelings of belonging. Where do I truly celebrate your birth: in a cozy home or in an unfamiliar house, among welcoming friends or among unknown strangers, with feelings of well-being or with feelings of loneliness?
I do not have to run away from those experiences that are closest to yours. Just as you do not belong to this world, so I do not belong to this world. Every time I feel this way I have an occasion to be grateful and to embrace you better and taste more fully your joy and peace.
Come, Lord Jesus, and be with me where I feel poorest. I trust that this is the place where you will find your manger and bring your light. Come, Lord Jesus, come.
As Nouwen so eloquently challenges us, let’s not run away from the brokenness we so often feel inside during the holidays. Instead, I pray the sense of homelessness would bring us closer to our true Home.
Wherever you are today, no matter what your Christmas looks like, may Jesus come and find his manger near you.
Republished without permission from The Road To Daybreak. Nouwen. New York, New York: Double Day.
Copyright 1988 by Henri J.M. Nouwen. All rights reserved.