We began the Advent meditations with the gospel of Luke’s version of the flight of Mary and Joseph from their home while Mary was pregnant. Today we’ll re-enter this story as the time comes for Mary to give birth. Once again, use your imagination to enter the scene. It’s a short passage, so spend time not so much on the words but on the visual scene you create in your mind.
- Begin by asking God to be present in your imagination. Ask for the awareness to notice this presence.
- Read Luke 2: 5-7.
Joseph went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (NRSV)
- On the first reading, simply take in the details of the story. Pause in silence. Then read it a second time, slowly, allowing your mind to visualize Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem.
- With your mind’s eye, see Mary approaching her time to deliver the baby. Watch her go into labor. Imagine yourself in the resting place Joseph has found for her to deliver — a manger. What do you see in the manger? Watch as she gives birth and attends to her newborn boy. What do the bands of cloth look like? Where do they come from? Let your imagination run free.
- What sounds do you hear in this place? What are Mary and Joseph saying? As you stand nearby, what are you saying? Does anyone speak to you? What is your reply? What sounds other than voices do you hear?
- What are the smells in Mary’s delivery “room?” Linger a moment and imagine what you are smelling as you stand near the manger.
- In your imagination, move around the scene and touch things. Touch Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus or one of the people accompanying them. Touch an angel or a passer-by, if they are present in your scene. Touch the dirt of the resting place, the hide of an animal. Notice what sensations you experience as you imagine touching someone or something in the scene.
- Let your imagination have freedom as you allow the scene to change in any way you feel inspired. Imagine what more there is to the story than what is recorded in scripture. Linger and interact with the characters there. What are you doing? Do you go off to tell someone about your experience? How do you describe what happened?
- When you feel finished with the imagination exercise, think about the meaning of the birth of Jesus for your life. Consider the harsh conditions Mary likely had to endure to give birth. What does this mean for you? What part of the story warms your heart most? What part of the story disturbs you most? What insight does your imagination prayer provide?
- Dialogue with one of the characters in the story. Do this in your imagination or on paper — whatever is easiest for you.
- Conclude with a short prayer of thanks for all you experienced in this prayer.
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