Bethlehem Novena

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This novena was written by our mentor and friend Kenneth J. Howell.

This Novena prayer is designed to help us love Jesus Christ more and to grow in virtue as we encounter Jesus in our hearts. As you may know, Novenas are usually designed to pray for some deep need in a person’s life and this one gives that opportunity every day. However, the main prayer suggested in this Novena is growth in a specific virtue for each day.

How to proceed: The Bethlehem Novena is designed to be prayed nine days before Christmas with the last being Christmas day. You may pray it individually or with your spouse or family. I also suggest that you pray for each person participating in the Novena. You may wish to kneel before a manger scene in your home or church.

Bethlehem Novena Prayers

Bethlehem Novena - Day 1

O Infant Jesus, I marvel today that You, the God of heaven and earth, would choose to come down to earth for my salvation. Heaven cannot hold you nor earth contain you. You came not as a man, but an infant, in weakness and vulnerability. As a helpless infant boy, you showed that greatness consists in taking the lowest position, not the highest. Such humility is beyond my imagining. 

Grant that this day, I may begin to acquire a greater humility by rejoicing in your gift and accepting your providence in the same way that Mary and Joseph, your earthly parents, accepted the Father’s will in their lives. 

Please accept this offering of my novena prayer that I bring: (name your special request).

It is such a a great need in my life. I only want your glory in this situation and I pray for your mercy to descend upon us. 

St. Mary,  pray for us!

St. Joseph, pray for us!

O Jesus,   have mercy on us!

Bethlehem Novena - Day 2

O Jesus, as I contemplate your lowliness lying in the manger, I realize why God chose St. Joseph to be your earthly father, your guardian during your childhood and youth. He was so docile, so open to doing God’s will first and foremost. A man of quiet strength, Joseph loved Mary your mother with remarkable faithfulness and devotion. As you, O Savior, would later teach, Joseph desired to serve. This desire made him always ready to hear your voice. The desire to serve also made him obedient to your command and fearless in the face of grave danger. 

O Jesus, how I want to be like Joseph, ready to do your will at the drop of a hat. Help me listen to your voice through the Spirit of God prompting my heart to do good. Strengthen my resolve so that, once I know your will, I may do it with the promptness of love. 

Please accept this offering of my novena prayer that I bring: (name your special request).

It is such a a great need in my life. I only want your glory in this situation and I pray for your mercy to descend upon us. 

St. Mary,  pray for us!

St. Joseph, pray for us!

O Jesus,   have mercy on us! 

Bethlehem Novena - Day 3

O Jesus, tonight the air is brimming with the fragrance of generosity. The shepherds have left their flocks, which they would never do, because a greater duty called them and a greater joy filled them, beckoning them to give their allegiance to you, the King of kings. The wisemen made a long journey and brought, not an after-thought, but the most precious gifts they could. 

Mary and Joseph! What generous hearts they had that gave their entire lives to you, their Son and Savior! I can only imagine what it would have been like to to hold you, the infant King, in their arms. And above all, you left the halls of the heavenly throne room to be born in a dirty stable. Your generosity is the greatest of all. You, being rich, became poor for our sakes that we might have the greatest wealth of all, the riches of heaven. 

Teach me to give of myself. Fill me, O Jesus, with a spirit of generosity to model my actions on yours. And show me how by being generous with my time, my talent, my money, I may help others. 

Please accept this offering of my novena prayer that I bring: (name your special request).

It is such a a great need in my life. I only want your glory in this situation and I pray for your mercy to descend upon us. 

St. Mary,  pray for us!

St. Joseph, pray for us!

O Jesus,   have mercy on us! 

Bethlehem Novena - Day 4

O Jesus, Infant King and Master of all. Today I see before me the poverty you chose for love of me and all humanity. No one on earth has ever known the riches you possessed in heaven, the unimaginable glory of your Father’s presence. But all this you willingly gave up and emptied yourself for the sake of poor souls like mine. You freely embraced such destitution that I might be rich, not with the goods of this world but with the imperishable goods of heaven.

Your presence in the manger of Bethlehem is not an accident. You guided the whole process and destination by your divine knowledge. And you chose such poor circumstances in which to be born that I might learn never to place myself above others but to be willing always to lower myself and to empty myself of vainglory. 

Grant that I too, following your example, may embrace the lowest position in order to gain the highest joy of all, the knowledge of your presence in heaven.  

Please accept this offering of my novena prayer that I bring: (name your special request).

It is such a a great need in my life. I only want your glory in this situation and I pray for your mercy to descend upon us. 

St. Mary,  pray for us!

St. Joseph, pray for us!

O Jesus,   have mercy on us! 

Bethlehem Novena - Day 5

O Jesus, my Lord and my God. When I consider all that Joseph and Mary had to endure in their journey to Bethlehem, I marvel at their perseverance. I so easily give in my pursuit of good things and fail to live a Christ-like life. Please help me to accept the unexpected surprises your providence brings into my life. Help me to be diligent in my own journey of life as I attempt to fulfill your will for me. 

With Mary, your mother, give me the grace to say, “Let it be done to me according to your word,” With Joseph help me to accept the difficult surprises in my life and always to honor your chosen servants. 

Grant me a spirit of unquestioning obedience to your will and a willingness to set out on a journey to wherever you may lead me. Above all, help me to persevere so I can one day worship in your presence as on that night in Bethlehem. 

Please accept this offering of my novena prayer that I bring: (name your special request).

It is such a a great need in my life. I only want your glory in this situation and I pray for your mercy to descend upon us. 

St. Mary,  pray for us!

St. Joseph, pray for us!

O Jesus,   have mercy on us! 

Bethlehem Novena - Day 6

O my Jesus, I look forward to Christmas Day because I want to kneel before your manger. I kneel because you are the king of kings and lord of lords. I know that your birth was a gift from the purest motive of all --- love. Mary, your mother, also bore you in her womb with love beyond all telling. Her sole desire was for the world to know and love you. And Joseph too was obedient to God’s will because he had his motives purified. His sole desire was to serve you and Mary his wife. 

When I look into my own life, I find my motives are often mixed. I want your glory and I want to know you better but sometimes I want a little recognition for myself so others will see how good I am. I often think of my own glory. At a deeper level I desire my intentions to be pure, to want what you want, and not to desire superfluous and needless things. 

Help me to seek your glory and honor in all things. Help me to serve you without expectation of reward in this world. Knowing you and being loved by you is reward enough!

Please accept this offering of my novena prayer that I bring: (name your special request).

It is such a a great need in my life. I only want your glory in this situation and I pray for your mercy to descend upon us. 

St. Mary,  pray for us!

St. Joseph, pray for us!

O Jesus,   have mercy on us! 

Bethlehem Novena - Day 7

O Jesus, the king of peace! Today I reflect on the name given you at your birth: Emmanuel, God with us. Of all the things I cherish, I want your presence in my life most of all. Even miracles cannot compare to the joy of your presence. Our life in heaven will not be a big miracle but the continual wonder-provoking sense of your presence. This alone brings peace to my soul.  

Isaiah the prophet foretold your name Emmanuel. The whole of the religion of Israel promised that the Lord would come and dwell among his people. God even gave Israel a sign, the cloud of glory that hovered over the tent of meeting and the temple. Mary, your mother, became the new temple to house your divine presence. 

This is what began that night in Bethlehem. So I ask you to be my Emmanuel. Be with me and in me. But also work in me so that I am with you. As St. Augustine, says, when we are far from you, we are even outside of ourselves for we can only know ourselves by knowing you and treasuring your presence in our lives. King Jesus, you are my peace; you are my contentment. 

Grant that I may know your presence in my life so that I will be at peace and trust you for everything in my life. Help me be content with you alone for you alone are the source of life and happiness. 

Please accept this offering of my novena prayer that I bring: (name your special request).

It is such a a great need in my life. I only want your glory in this situation and I pray for your mercy to descend upon us. 

St. Mary,  pray for us!

St. Joseph, pray for us!

O Jesus,   have mercy on us! 

Bethlehem Novena - Day 8

Dear Infant King, my Jesus. How I marvel tonight as I look at your manger. It is here that you will come to lay and it is here that I will worship you. There is no other who deserves to be loved and worshipped as you do. As a baby boy, you are weak and vulnerable, but as God you are all-powerful and all-knowing. You are to be obeyed because you are God. 

I confess how hard it is for me to obey. My stubborn will wants to do what I want at the moment. But I also know that obedience is the path to happiness. Help me to choose obedience in matters both small and great. Help me reject the ungodly thinking that to serve you in obedience is slavery and to embrace obedience as the path to freedom. 

All the people involved in your birth were obedient servants of the King. Joseph obeyed the angel’s message. Mary, sang her Magnificat out of joy of serving you. The shepherds rushed to Bethlehem in obedience. The Magi traveled far in obedience to the star. How can I, your lowly servant, not give my obedience? 

 Please accept this offering of my novena prayer that I bring: (name your special request).

It is such a great need in my life. I only want your glory in this situation and I pray for your mercy to descend upon us.

St. Mary,  pray for us!

St. Joseph, pray for us!

O Jesus,   have mercy on us! 

Bethlehem Novena - Day 9

O Jesus, today I worship and adore you as the King of kings and Lord of lords. You are mighty God and Prince of Peace. You are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. You are love itself. 

It was love that moved your heart to come to earth and to be born as a baby. It was love that gave us the heavenly teaching of Truth. It was love that healed the sick and raised the dead. It was love that gave us your body and blood in the Eucharist. There are three great virtues: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. 

I know that love must be the motive and ground of all my actions and thoughts. Please come into my heart today and give me that love which I cannot manufacture. Help me to grow in all the virtues I have prayed for but most of all in love. 

Please accept this offering of my novena prayer that I bring: (name your special request).

It is such a a great need in my life. I only want your glory in this situation and I pray for your mercy to descend upon us.

St. Mary,  pray for us!

St. Joseph, pray for us!

O Jesus,   have mercy on us! 

Prayers written by Kenneth J. Howell, used with permission.