Pastor Kurt Lammi: A Christmas Prayer


Good and loving God,

It's Christmas, the time we celebrate your coming - as a baby.  We all know the story.  We hear it year after year.  We sing it in song after song.  It's in our culture with trees and Santa and reindeer.  It's cute and cuddly - because everyone likes babies.  Especially a baby who will grow up and die for the sake of the world.  But, God, I must admit...I don't get it.  Why a baby?  Why a teenage mother?  Why a back corner of the middle of nowhere in a land that still has wars in your name?  Sure, I know it's about love - and I've heard that before - but I want to know why.  You see, God, a baby doesn't do much.  A baby can't do much.  When I'm suffering, struggling, sinning - when I'm trying to pull the pieces together, trying to hold my life together, trying to make some sense of what's going on, I don't need a baby.  I need a strong Savior.  I need someone who will come and heal me.  A baby can't do that.  A baby is weak, vulnerable, and needy.  Just like me.  Maybe that's why you came - to tell me you are just like me.  But what good does that do?

You see, I thought you were God.  All powerful, all knowing, all present.  So, if you are like me, then where is the hope?  Where is the joy I'm looking for?  Where is the release, the freedom, the good news that I long to hear?  If you were born as a baby just like me, then where is your power?  Yes, there were angels and good news of great joy and shepherds in the fields - and I know all the details - but where are you now?  I can sing Christmas carols and I can decorate a tree and I can pull out my little nativity set - but where are you now?  Where are you when I struggle with myself, and with those I love, and with a world that tempts me and taunts me and tells me I'm worthless?  Are you still back there in that manger, resting in Mary's lap, as Joseph stands nearby?  Where are you when Christmastime is not the happiest time of the year for some people?  Where are you when the presents under the tree make me happy for a moment - but they don't change the problems that are going on in my life?  Where are you when all that's left of my life is a dirty tree tossed by the side of the road like garbage, a reminder that this world is not all about celebration?  Where are you when the lights come down and the darkness rises and it feels like my heart is frozen in snow?

"O come, O come Emmanuel.  And ransom captive Israel.  Who longs in lonely exile here.  Until the Son of God appears."  This is my prayer - that you come.  This is our hope in Advent - that you come.  This is our desire - that you come and change our world and change our hearts and change our lives.

But then on this day, two millennia removed and many thousands of miles away, we look - and there you are.  We see you!  You have come.  Not just as a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in manger.  But you have come - as our Savior.  Here and now today.  Because you came to save sinners, and that means you came to save us.  You came to save me.

Yes, you came as a baby.  Yes, you came like me.  Yes, you came in the mess and muck and mire of my life.  But you did so to show us that you are Emmanuel - God With Us.  You are not a God removed and far off.  You are not a God who is distant and looking at us from some far away place.  You are not a God who is only accessible on the mountain top.  You are a God who comes down - down into the dirtiest place in the world - down into my heart.  You are a God who comes down in ways that the rest of the world overlooks.  Because babies are born everyday and there's nothing really special about that.  But then you mention it - actually, you announce it, you proclaim it - to those shepherds in the fields who are used to their comfortable daily lives.  You scare them and tell them that life has changed.  That the Messiah has been born.  That the clock has restarted.  That a new beginning has begun.  Because you, the God who created the universe, the God who is all-powerful and all-knowing and all-present, you have come to this world.  You have come to me.  You have come to us, come to those shepherds, come to everyone who struggles.  Everyone who is dirty and broken and bruised.  Everyone who hides away in our own corners that smell like animal stalls.  Everyone who wonders what this world is coming to.  You are born here - to show us that you are here with us and that we are not alone.

So this year, the Christmas story will not be the same old, same old.  This year, it is truly good news of great joy - back then and there for them and also here and now for us.  For me.  For this entire world.  And so, like the shepherds, we now go and tell others what we have heard and seen.  Because, at last, we have heard and seen you.  Thank you, God. 



Kurt Lammi is the pastor at St Paul Lutheran Church on Dog Leg Road in Dayton, Ohio []