By Sarah Streitwieser
Do you ever find it difficult to imagine the Nativity with fresh eyes and an open heart? Does it seem particularly challenging to avail yourself to new insights from a story you have (most likely) heard so many times?
Perhaps more than any other story or Biblical encounter, the mystery of the Nativity invites us to wonder. Imagine Joseph and Mary (who is perhaps already in the early stages of labor) as they enter overcrowded Bethlehem. “No room,” is their only greeting. This is my first “stop” when meditating on the Nativity. I find myself in the innkeeper’s words, “No room.” I see myself overcrowded with pride, often too busy to receive the Christ Child. Here I ask for the grace to be still and open, to be uncontrived and humble like the stable – not so full as Bethlehem.
Now Imagine Jesus newly born – literally the God of all creation embodied in a downy-skinned, heart-faced infant. Imagine His legs curled up in fetal position and His little feet, puffy and rounded out, so many months away from being ready to walk. Perhaps His arms are flailing because He does not yet have the capacity to control His own limbs. Mary swaddles Him to help Him rest. What would it be like to cradle God, made present to the world as an infant?
Take a moment to behold this beautiful spiritual reality, now, plunge the scene into actual human reality. Consider the dirty stable, perhaps the “mess” of birth, the muck of the manger, the noise of animals, and the smell of manure. Next, imagine the shepherds – scruffy, unpolished, and unbathed – crowding in the already cramped quarters. How ordinary – even less than ordinary or well below average – the initial moments of Christ’s human life must have seemed.
With the shepherds, I want to empty myself of possessions and attachments, so that there is room enough in my arms to receive my Infant Lord. Like the manger I want to be humble and empty, so that there is room for me to hold Him. Too often I am like Bethlehem and the innkeeper, crowding out Jesus with task lists and schedules. “No room,” I say, with my calendar in hand.
The guided meditations linked below can be used as an aid to enter into the mystery of the Nativity. Meditate on the parts that speak to you; skip over the sections that don’t. Share your thoughts and prayer with your family. Come back next week for something new.