A Christmas Novena for the Last Nine Days of Advent

Even if you’ve been negligent in preparing for Christmas so far this Advent, you have a special nine days to refocus. Use it well!

Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich, “Annunciation to the Shepherds,” 1760
Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich, “Annunciation to the Shepherds,” 1760 (photo: Public Domain)

On Dec. 16, we are just nine days until Christmas! The Church’s liturgy begins today to make a shift: the first part of Advent is far more eschatological, focusing on Jesus’ Second Coming and our need, here and now, to prepare for it. In the last nine days of Advent, the focus moves to the historical events that led to Jesus’ First Coming in Bethlehem over two millennia ago.

Catholics’ popular devotions also reflected this shift. For one, the Church’s liturgy began to pray the great “O Antiphons” at the beginning of Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours — from Dec. 17-23, the Church commemorates Christ’s historical birth by praying the titles that foretold his Messianic coming.

For another, Catholic popular devotion began praying the “Christmas Novena” on Dec. 16. “Novenas” are nine days of prayer for a particular intention. They were very common in popular Catholicism before Vatican II (e.g., many parishes had Miraculous Medal or St. Jude novenas) but their origin is biblical: the first novena was made by the Apostles with the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Jerusalem Cenacle, where they waited from Ascension Thursday until the Holy Spirit arrived on Pentecost.

So, even if you’ve been negligent in gearing up spiritually for Christmas so far this Advent, you have a special nine days to refocus. Use it well!

On Mondays this Advent, I have provided meditations for an Advent retreat, “To Jesus through Mary at Christmas,” which focused, in this years of Dobbs, on accompanying Mother Mary and Baby Jesus in the womb from the Annunciation to Christmas. For those of you who find those meditations useful, I offer these prayers you might want to employ for your Christmas Novena.


General Prayer

As we advance toward Christmas, the birth of Jesus in human flesh, I pray to Our Lord and to his Mother Mary, to help me to use this time well. Just as you awaited with joy the fruit of your womb, help me, O Mary, to welcome your Son within me. Just as you grew in your Mother’s womb like every human being, O Jesus, help me to value and be a witness to the sanctity of life before birth that even You — creator of the Universe — shared with all human beings.

I ask you, my Lord and my Mother Mary, to grant me this special intention, for which I pray, if it be Your Will. (Here mention your intention).

(Variable Prayer below.)

I thank You, Lord, for all the blessings You have given me — most of all for Coming to me — and pray that you make me more worthy to celebrate this Christmas, Amen.


Variable Prayers

Dec. 16: Your Coming to be conceived, O Lord, was announced by your angel and met your Mother’s loving acceptance. Help all mothers to welcome the life that You give them in their wombs.

Dec. 17: By this time, Your Sacred Heart was already beating with love for every human being in this world. Help us to reverence the sacredness of every beating heart in every child before birth, a sign of humanity and a sign of love.

Dec. 18: In this third month, like all unborn children, Your sacred hands and feet are already developed, hands and feet You will one day extend on the cross out of love for me. Help us to defend your unborn brothers and sisters, most of whom are killed at this stage by dismemberments as cruel as your Crucifixion and forgive us for what we have done to these least of our brothers and sisters. Your cousin, John, welcomed you at this stage: help us to welcome your gift of life.

Dec. 19: In this fourth month, like all unborn children, Your hair was in place, hair one day to bear a crown of thorns for our sins. Help us to purge from our own heads the cruelty of killing our brothers and sisters and thereby to console You who foresaw these deeds.

Dec. 20: Like all unborn children, Your Mother probably began to feel the joy of You moving, even though You have been with her for five months. Move our hearts to love, and fill them with joy for, our brothers and sisters as they quicken in the womb, knowing You have already given them life.

Dec. 21: As You grow and develop, You enjoyed the safety of Mary’s womb. At this stage of life, there are those who still defend the right to kill at this light term. Melt their hearts of stone to love the life growing beneath those hearts.

Dec. 22: By this seventh month, like all unborn children, Your hearing is fully developed. Could You hear Your Mother singing to You? Could You feel her love? Heal those mothers who still are ambivalent about their children, and help them to hear Your Word of life.

Dec. 23: As you ready to be born, have you sensed the concern of Mary and Joseph, needing to travel and carry You far away to be counted? Be with parents in whatever their worries, and help us all to realize that life is not something to be counted or priced, but valued.

Dec. 24: Soon You will come into the world. Soon many children will come into the world, and some of them will be killed, abandoned, or neglected while being born, especially if they are not “perfect.” Your foster father, St. Joseph, was told there was “no room” for You and Your Mother. Help us, today, always to have room for every Mother and Child. Help me, this Christmas Eve, to make room in my heart for You.