What if we prepared our hearts for Christmas not just by listening to or reading the Gospel, but by really entering into the story? Would God's story become ours?
Christmas isn't just for children; it's for all of us. Baptism reminds us that even adults must recall their status as Children of God, allowing blood-flow between mind and heart, without harshly rationalizing everything. Prayer and meditation help soften the lines we inadvertently draw between real faith and real life. Entering God's Word can renew and restore the proper balance.
Put yourself into the story. It's a real spiritual exercise: a form of meditation that disallows just passively listening to the message, but actively receives it.
Imagination stirs us to become a character in the story's action, or to be ourselves as bystanders or witnesses of the events. That kind of identification draws us deeper into "the Greatest Story Ever Told," letting it take root. We make personal connections when we ponder what catches our attention. The longer you meditate on a scenario in Scripture, the more you relax with the details, and the more vivid the experience. And while your mind is engaged this way, the Spirit of God may whisper to your heart as well.
Read the infancy narratives in chapters 1 and 2 in the Gospels of Matthew or Luke. You can work with just a few paragraphs, or the Gospels at Mass.
See, smell, touch, hear, and taste. Talk to the people you are reading about.
Putting myself into the story helps me to "get it." I acknowledge the truth of my situation, the need for more of God in my life and less of everything else.
I discover that the supernatural takes place within the realm of my natural world. That's what makes Christmas so utterly amazing. My eyes see and my heart detects God becoming part of the human family, and I find him in my own experiences.
Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem . . . with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered (Lk. 2:4-6).
I sense my Advent days urgently yielding to Christmas like the throes of a woman in labor, the contractions bring the final push. Ready or not, the Day is upon us. And there is a burst of joy in the birth of a baby, and a delightful fatigue settles in.
And she gave birth to her first-born son (Lk. 2:7).
I get it when a Momma blissfully holds her Baby Boy close, feeling the nourishment leave her body. And in the next moment he pulls away to flash a milky, toothless, grin.
. . . And laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn (Lk. 2:7).
I breathe it in when I walk past the working farms nearby. The rich scent of the livestock and the fields remind me of the first impressions of the earth taken in by the baby Jesus.
Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people . . . (Lk. 2:10).
I get it when the shepherds—some of the poorest people of their era—become blessed recipients of the riches of the kingdom as they hope in the good news by heroically sharing that message with others.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!" (Lk. 2:13-14)
I see it when I am outdoors in the quiet darkness of a crisp winter night. I can look up to the stars in the sky, visualizing the heavenly host. Or I hear it when the hymn of the Gloria strikes a chord in my heart at Mass, preparing me for the taste of the Eucharist.
Behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him (Mt. 2:1-2).
I hear it when someone tells me they have to follow God's call—the gravitational pull that beckons them to discern and follow, to go and do.
And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child... glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them (Lk. 2:17, 20).
I get it when my own desire to receive a gift is supplanted by a deeper desire to give one. Or better yet, to become a gift to someone else. When I see someone's eyes light up with recognition of being remembered and loved, then I understand true joy and thanksgiving.
When my life glorifies and praises God for all I have heard and seen, then I am not only entering the story, I am living it.
And his name shall be called Emmanuel (which means, God with us) (Mt. 1:23).
When we know this story down to our bones, yoking our lives to His Story, we come to know Emmanuel.
From the Gohn home to yours, a very Merry Christmas!