During the season of Advent (the coming; the arrival) we wait with Mary, the mother of Jesus for the birth of her unexpected, though long-awaited, child. She (and we) experience all the feelings of waiting – anticipation, awe, concern, joy, anxiety.
What if you let go of your intellectual understanding of Scripture and allow the Bible to speak to you in new, less analytical ways? What if you added a new tool to your reading Scripture tool box – your imagination? Imagination can take you to new and deeper places in the Scriptures and new and deeper places in your relationship with God.
Let’s use our imagination as we read the story of the birth of Jesus as told in Luke 2: 4-7:
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them” (NIV).
Imagine being present with Joseph and Mary during this time in the stable. First imagine what you might see? For example, do you see Mary creating a home amidst the straw and animals? How are the animals reacting to the invasion of humans? Is Joseph pacing while Mary is in childbirth? Is it dark? Is a fire making shadows on the wall? What else do you see?
What do you hear? Are animals shuffling or chewing Is Mary groaning or sobbing? Is Joseph praying? Do you hear a baby’s first cry? What else do you hear?
What can you smell or taste? Straw, human sweat, animals? Is there a fire burning or food cooking? Can you taste bread or wine? What else can you smell or taste?
What can you touch or feel? Animal skin or fur? The rough wood of the manger? The soft swaddling clothes Mary has laid out for her first child? Mary’s sweaty forehead? A baby’s soft skin and damp hair? What else do can you touch or feel?
Now look around at the people around the manger. Who is there? What do they look like? What are they doing? What are they talking about? What do you think Joseph is feeling and thinking? Put yourself in young Mary’s place? What is she feeling, giving birth so far away from home.
Next imagine that you are a character in this scene. Perhaps you have traveled with Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem to assist them on the journey. Maybe you wondered what you were getting into when the innkeeper led you to a stable to stay for the night. You watch in wonder as Mary’s baby comes into the world. You think about all the rumors you have heard about this baby. You stare in amazement as shepherds crowd into the room, saying that angels have sent them to find the Savior. You watch Mary calmly holding the baby as the shepherds jabber away. What does this birth mean to you? Do you believe this is the Savior? If not, why not? if so, what does this mean for the rest of your life?
As you draw back from your involvement in the scene and reflect on what you have experienced, you may sense God’s presence. What does this story mean to you now? What would you say to Mary? How do you feel about this child and his birth? How does the humanness of this situation affect your understanding of who Jesus is? Is God asking you to do something? Worship? Love Jesus more deeply? Tell someone about the adventure you have witnessed?
When you bring your imagination to a passage of Scripture, you may find a deeper awareness of the significance of the words to your life. You may notice stronger faith, deeper love. You may feel conviction of sin and a need for forgiveness. You may be over-whelmed with praise or gratitude. You will certainly place yourself in the position to be transformed by the Word.