This is my grandmother’s prayer book. She received it in 1914. I knew it contained prayers for Christmas so I took it from the shelf this morning, and carefully began to read.
I found this prayer attributed to Rev. J.W. Nicely, D.D. : (I’m leaving it in its original form for now)
Our gracious Lord, in the rush of many duties, we would be quiet before Thee. Above the confusion of the world and the tumult in our own hearts we would hear the sweet Christmas message of peace. Unless our hearts be at peace with Thee through the Bethlehem-Born Prince, our lives will add to the discord and darkness of the world. This day, loving Father, we travel once again to Bethlehem beautiful location, but more beautiful because of the sacred and hallowed association. We descend the stairs in to the crypt and care not for mitered priest or soldier guard, but as spiritual travelers kneel before the silver star that marks the birthplace of Him who ever guides men to kindness, peace, brotherly love and the Father’s home. Come, O Christ, and be Immanuel to our beloved church. May Thy holy love enter with new joy and vitalizing power into the hearts of all our people, especially those who are ill, or bereaved, or sacredly troubled. Omnipotent God, purify “as by fire” the hearts of kings and the rulers of armies and let the Christ of Bethlehem rule in all our social, and industrial, and international relations. May the heaven-sent message first sung by angelic voices be heard this year above the roar of battle and the tramp of marching armies so that “Peace and Good Will” may as never before be established in the hearts of men. May the abundance of our blessings in America and the richness of our Christmas joy find grateful expression in unselfish service in behalf of those whom He loves. In His Name. Amen.
I love reading written prayers. I try to imagine the context the writer/pray-er finds themselves. Why would these things be their concerns, merit lifting to the Giver of life and peace?
In this prayer the phrase, “sacredly troubled,” stopped me. In all my years of ministry and through my faith journey I had never come across it. So, I looked it up and it is so incredibly timely for our current situation.
A quick survey of social media or overheard conversations in the local coffee shop reveals an overwhelming concern, even angst, related to questions about religion, faith and practice. Much of this seems linked to a lack of integrity and hypocrisy of those who have assumed roles of leadership within the Christian Church. Spiritual abuse, misogyny, legalism, and nationalism have usurped the message of scripture and teaching of Jesus. Those with questions don’t know where to go or to whom they should take their questions —so they leave. Leave the Church. Leave their faith.
And this breaks my heart.
So to those who are struggling, and sacredly troubled, I want to extend an invitation to come back. Bring your question, your hurts, your anger, your wounds, all the things troubling you. The most precious word in all of scripture is come.
Jesus made this invitation to “all those who weary and heavy laden” Come. Come learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart.
This Christmas I invite you to come to the manger, with fresh eyes, open heart, and allow the Prince of Peace, Immanuel (God with us) to heal the hurts and restore your faith in ways that can move you forward and closer to the One who knows you best and loves you most.