Jesus is Born
Before you begin, find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. Take a few moments to come to quiet, asking the Lord to help you attend to him in your prayer.
Note: Historical and textual research has shown that the birth story may have looked more like what follows than what we are used to. For more details see Cyndi Parker, Encountering Jesus in the Real World of the Gospels, (Peabody, Mass: Henrickson Publishers, 2021)
Imagine yourself as a close friend to Mary and Joseph, perhaps a cousin or a neighbor. You have known them all your life. Yesterday, they asked you to accompany them as they travel to Bethlehem. You know about Caesar’s decree but you’re shocked that they’ll be making this trip since Mary is pregnant. It may be difficult for her. You see Mary over there gathering some things, talking to her mother and a neighbor.
What do you notice about her?
You go to find Joseph. What do you say to him?
Together you look at a rough map and figure that you need to cover about 140 kilometres. You puzzle together about how far you can get each day. What supplies will you pack for this one- to two-week journey?
What do you feel as you think about this trip?
The next day you all set out at first light. You are concerned because traveling is always dangerous, especially for women but there are a few people in your small company of travelers so that makes you feel a bit safer. You do feel anxious about getting to Bethlehem and back before this baby comes so you are anxious to get going. As you walk together, imagine what you might say to your friends Mary and Joseph.
What would you want to ask them?
The days are long and hot. Imagine yourself walking slowly, sometimes talking, often silent, eating, sleeping, then moving on again.
After many long days on the road, you finally arrive in Bethlehem. It is late and already dark. Joseph leads you to the relatives he knows live here. Surely they will take you in.
When you arrive you hear that other guests have already taken the spare room but there is space for Mary in the animal cave below the house. As you help Mary to settle in, what do you feel? How does Joseph respond? How does Mary respond?
After some time, you hear Mary moving about, groaning. The women from the household hear it too and they swarm her to assist in the birth and you move away to allow them room, or, you respond to their invitation to help. Time seems to slow down as you see Mary moving about, trying to get comfortable. Time between contractions is shortening. It won’t be long now.
You go to see Joseph. The men of the household are trying to talk to him, to reassure him. What do you notice about him? Your thoughts are interrupted by Mary’s screams. You look at Joseph. The room goes silent. He reaches for your hand.
The sounds intensify until…you hear the baby cry.
What sensations do you feel?
When you are invited back into the cave you see the baby wrapped up tight. Mary is exhausted but her face radiates joy. You step closer to the manger where the baby lies.
Do you reach out to touch him?
Would you like to hold him?
Linger here with Mary, Joseph, and the baby. Invite the Lord to bring to your mind whatever is important for you to see and feel.
When you are ready, close your time of prayer with thankfulness for your imagination and for the gift of this child.