13And suddenly there was with the angel
a multitude of the heavenly host,* praising God and saying, 14 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’*
God speaks to us in many ways–through relationships, our experiences, sacred texts such as the Bible and many more. Like Lectio Divina is Latin for divine reading, Visio Divina is Latin for divine seeing, praying with images to listen to God’s words. Think of Visio Divina as if you were putting on God-glasses to see how an image illuminates the Christ within you. Like Lectio Divina, Latin for divine reading, Visio Divina has four steps: Use the above painting by a Dutch artist Nicolaes Berchem painted around 1650, titled Annunciation to the Shepherds.
Look slowly and carefully at the painting, taking a first glance noting the colors, people, places and things. Remain with the image for one to two minutes. We are preparing for the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child, how does the paint help you prepare? If you would like, jot down a few words about the image in your journal.
Now take deeper second look. Where is there movement? What relationships do you see? Engage your imagination. Place yourself in the painting; are you a shepherd, a sheep, or angel? What do you see from that perspective? What emotions rise up for you? If you were a sheep what might you feel? If you were a shepherd how would you respond to the message of the angels? What else do you feel, or see in the painting? If you would like jot down your thoughts and feelings in your journal
Respond to the image with prayer. Did the image remind you of an experience, person or issue for which you’d like to offer thanksgiving or intercession? Offer that prayer to God.
Find your quiet center. Breathe deeply. Relax your shoulders, arms and legs. Rest in this quiet. Let God pray in you. God prays beyond words.
May the song of the angels be with you as you go about your preparations for Christmas.
Matthew 3:3This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’”
Unfortunately I never had children. However, I have been blessed to be Grammy to my husband John’s two youngest grandchildren. I remember how excited I was to hear our Daughter-in-Law, Laura, tell us she was pregnant and I could hardly wait to see this new addition to our family. Liam was born on John’s birthday in 2007 and he is now 7 year old, actually soon to be 8 and is becoming a wonderful young man.
I have been thinking about what it took to prepare for Liam’s arrival. So many things go into preparing for newborn; baby clothes, blankets, crib, diapers, binkies, blankets, toys, rattles, bottles, booties, the list is endless. And you can be sure you will forget something in all the hustle bustle of getting ready.
We are in the first week of Advent and I was thinking about what Mary would have done to get ready. The first thing she would have to do was tell her intended husband she was pregnant and I can only imagine how the conversation went.
“Ah Joseph, I have to tell you something.”
“Yes Mary what is it.”
“Now I want you sit down and listen to what I say, I know it will be hard to understand, I don’t understand myself, but this is the truth.”
“Just tell me Mary, it will be ok.”
“ Weeell, 3 months ago I was visited by an angel of the Lord and he told me that I had been chosen above all other women, to bear the child of the Most High. He said the Holy Spirit would come upon me and, ah, it happened, I’m pregnant.”
“ Ah, Mary , you are telling me your pregnant, and it is YHYW’s child. That’s a little hard to believe.”
“I know but, before you do anything, like report me to the temple authorities, just think about it.”
“Ok, I’ll think about it, but this I will tell you the wedding is off but I won’t have you taken before the authorities, I still love you and I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
“You will know what’s best to do Joseph.”
Mary was a teenager, maybe as young as 13 years, and being an unwed mother in the first century was not an acceptable practice. Stoning of the woman was the rule and Mary had every right to be afraid. She didn’t know what Joseph would do. She didn’t know that He would be visited by the same angel who would tell him he has nothing to fear. Mary, like any young woman who finds herself pregnant, was fearful of what could happen to her. Just preparing to tell those she hoped loved her would be a fearful experience. Her pregnancy would bring shame and humiliation upon her family and Joseph so simply getting the courage to tell of her predicament would take time. Maybe that is why she went to visit her Cousin Elizabeth to gather the courage to tell her wonderful, terrifying secret.
In the next 4 weeks we too will be preparing. No we aren’t in Mary’s sandals, but, we have those things that terrify us as we get ready for the celebration the Christ Child’s birth. We have our own secrets that we keep buried within us. In the last couple of years the racial bias, gender bias, bias against women, poor, and elderly have come out into the open. All of us, me included, carry some level of all those biases. It is learning to admit that I, we all, carry fear toward someone different that raises those fears and biases from subconscious to conscious where they light of day can heal them.
Advent is about preparation, it is about hope, it is about faith, it is about love, it is about peace entering where angels fear to tread. This advent I am taking my fears out of the shadows and finding the way to heal the wounds they cause. Letting the light of hope, faith, and love change them from fear to acceptance. In prayer, in meditation, and with Advent prayer books I am working, trying hard, to change how I see the world.
What fears, what biases cause you to afraid of someone from a different faith, with a different color skin, is poor, or elderly keeping you from experiencing the amazing peace, hope, faith and love that the presence of the Christ child offers to you? I invite you to ponder the above scripture this week, to pray about how to prepare your heart for the celebration of the Christ’s birth.