“Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” Luke 1:15
In the midst of all the wonderful bustle we enjoy each year at Christmas we do well to celebrate the peace and stillness for which this holiday is also associated. We need only bask in the gentle strains of “Silent Night” to once again sense the invitation of the Holy Spirit to come and linger, if only for a few minutes, near the sovereign calm that we imagine at Jesus’ birth.
Take opportunity during the holidays, often if you can, to create times of solitude where this calm can impress itself on your heart. In the ancient discipline of recollection, let your prayerful meditations deeply and more truthfully shape your experience of Christmas. Perhaps the Ignatian form of using the imagination to contemplate the Gospels might be a helpful aid in allowing the spirit of Jesus’ calming presence to enter in. *
Imagine the manger scene. Picture yourself there. Even if it’s only an image you are remembering from an old Christmas card, it doesn’t matter. See yourself as part of the unfolding scene as you linger in the presence of the infant Jesus. Allow the Holy Spirit to direct you in your imagination. Your five senses can also help situate you in the scene. Consider the physical environment your imagination has led you to. What is the temperature? Is the air cool or is it warm? What sounds do you hear around you as you stop to listen? Are people talking or shuffling about? Are there animals there? Can you hear reveling from the nearby inn? What smells do you notice? Your own clothes? The shepherds standing next to you? Can you feel the straw beneath your feet? Or the night breeze blowing through the open manger?
How does it all look to you? What do you see as you picture this scene? Where are people situated? Where is the light coming from? What about the shadows? Where do they fall? And where are you situated in the picture? Are you part of the scene? Are others aware of your presence? Do you interact with them in any away? Let yourself be surprised by what unfolds. How do you feel about being there?
Now picture the baby in whose presence we gather. Consider how the child tacitly welcomes us. Without a word spoken, without even a gesture, what is being communicated to all those present? We gaze at the baby. We sense the grace and truth that emanates towards us. It is good to be here. God is glad as well that you are here to share His gift. You are in the presence of a timeless truth—the utter simplicity of innocence. It satisfies your every instinct of how life should be. And for these few moments, you are receiving the most blessed Christmas gift of all. There is peace. Nothing more is needed in life. All is calm. All is bright. Christ, our Saviour, is born. And, in the deepest recesses of your being, you are receiving your King.
* If this form of using the imagination to contemplate the Gospels is helpful to you, you can find other”Mysteries of the Life of our Lord” from the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, along with further instructions, on this website under “Praying the Gospels” https://imagodeicommunity.ca/category/praying-the-gospels/. The Christmas passages to meditate on would be from #262-270.