Many Paths to Bethlehem
Here are eight ways of approaching the Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Please use what appeals to you and ignore what doesn't.
1. USING THE IMAGINATION WITH THE SENSES
Imagine that you are in Bethlehem, entering the stable. What will the sounds and the sights and the smells be? In your mind's eye go into the stable. What will you see? What will you touch and hear? Who else might be there? Just appreciate the presence of Mary and Joseph and Jesus and concentrate all the time on what you might see and hear, touch and smell and maybe even taste.
2. USING THE FREEWHEELING IMAGINATION
Imagine that you are there in Bethlehem. Just be present there and look at it all in your mind's eye. Then sit back and see what happens. Don't force your imagination along particular lines. Just let it freewheel and see what comes.
3. BRINGING JESUS INTO THE PRESENT
Look back over today. Concentrate on one moment when you
felt something strongly - pleasure, anger, affection, fear, any feeling which made quite an impression on you today. Go back in your mind's eye and just be there again, and let yourself experience the same emotion again. Maybe there was
some reason why you felt like that. Take notice if there was. Don't worry if there wasn't. Then imagine that Bethlehem comes to you. The Holy Family are in the same place with you. Maybe Mary even hands you the baby to hold. What will you feel then? If you could make one request to him, what would you say, feeling all that you have felt to-day? If that Baby could speak to you, what would he ask you to be, or think or do?
4. PRAYING WITH YOUR PEN OR PAINTBRUSH
You are the editor of the Bethlehem Star. What articles will there be in your paper? What will be the headlines and what small articles? Would the birth, the shepherds, the wise men be the major articles in the real world of that day? How would you as editor arrange what is in your paper?
Don't worry if you're not good enough to exhibit your work. Borrow your children's crayons or paints and doodle around the idea of the birth of Jesus.
5. PRAYING FROM WORDS
Take the story in Luke or Matthew or the philosophical introduction to John and just read them slowly. If you can do it without family or friends thinking you've gone mad, read the words aloud quietly. When a particular word or phrase hits you, stop and chew on it in your heart. Maybe say some words of prayer to God as well. When this stops being useful for you, just read on a little further until something hits you again.
6. RETELL THE STORY OF JESUS FOR TODAY
Imagine Jesus born in our world. Where today would you find a people or a group who were oppressed in a similar way to Jesus' family and nation? What would be the equivalent of the census? Of Herod? Of the stable? Who would in our day take the place of the outcast shepherds and the powerful wise men? And who are the angels (and 'angels' means 'messengers') bringing 'tidings of great joy which shall be to all people'?
7. LIGHT A CANDLE AND LOOK AT IT
8. JUST SING
Let yourself get lost singing the Christmas hymns and songs, out loud or in your head, and be aware of Jesus.
...when we have done any of these devotional exercises, let us remember the many ways that Jesus meets us - in the mystery of the Bread and Wine, in the words of the Gospel, in the fellowship of all believers, and in the cry of the needy. And wherever we encounter our Incarnate Lord.