Arts & Faith: Christmas Imaginative Prayer Exercise

Arts & Faith: Advent

Each week of Advent, we’ve provided an Ignatian prayer for you, inspired by a video from Arts & Faith: Advent. Today we share the video and prayer for Christmas Day. The art is John Singleton Copley’s The Nativity.

Preparation

Prepare for a period of meditation by sitting comfortably, closing your eyes, and breathing deeply for a moment or two. Allow any present concerns to move across your mind and wait off to the side for now.

Encountering the Newborn Baby

In your imagination, go to an outdoor location that felt like home for you when you were a teenager. It could be the backyard of the house you lived in, or a campground you frequented, a neighborhood park, or even a field where you played sports with your friends. Go back there now. It’s a chilly night, but the sky is clear. You’re with friends, just talking—about what’s happening at school, about somebody’s break-up with a girlfriend or boyfriend, about conflicts with parents or the car you hope to buy soon.

One of you hears voices in a shadowed corner nearby. It seems that two or three people are huddled under a canopy of branches. You detect excitement in their voices. You and your friends whisper among yourselves, wondering what you should do. After a few moments, you decide to go see what’s happening, in case someone is in trouble. You move quietly toward the sound.

Then the moon breaks through the clouds, and you see clearly a man and woman under the trees. She is lying down, and he crouches beside her. They look up as you and your friends approach.

They are not from around here—the features of their faces seem sharper and more distinct than most of the people you know. Do they speak English? One of your friends asks, his voice hesitant, “Is everything OK?”

The couple looks up at the small of group of you. In the moonlight, you can see a slight flash of fear cross their faces. But then they both smile, and then you hear a baby cry.

“Yes, we’re all right now,” says the man. “My wife just had a baby, but they’re both fine.”

The baby’s squall sends ripples across the night air. You all come closer—you’ve never seen a born-in-the-last-few-minutes new baby. The mother is wiping his hair and face with a towel. She has wrapped him in what looks like a large cotton scarf.

“Don’t you have a place to stay?” you ask.

“We’ll find one,” says the husband. “This happened so fast, we had to stop. No hospitals in this part of town—we’re traveling through and don’t know where anything is.”

By now, all of you are huddled around the mother and baby. And this is what you will remember until you are all very old: the sight of the child fills you with a deep-down joy and this overwhelming sense that the world will be all right. That you will be all right. That a huge love dwells in the universe—a love that makes such a tiny, perfect life possible. You think you’re the only one to feel this, but later, when you and your friends talk about this night, you’ll all say the same thing: something fundamental changed when you encountered this newborn baby.

But now, you take action. Your friend Natalie lives in a large house, and her parents are the kind of people that will take in this couple and their child, no questions asked. So Natalie and Jared run to her house, to get her dad and the car. Should this lady go to the hospital, to make sure she and the baby are all right? Natalie’s parents will know what to do.

The couple—Jose and Maria—beam with gratitude. Their warmth and calm actually bring you comfort, even though they are the ones in need. You talk together easily while waiting for the car, and more help, to come.

Concluding Prayer

Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning,
is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
Amen.

About Vinita Hampton Wright 184 Articles
Vinita Hampton Wright has served as senior editor at Loyola Press for 16 years and recently became managing editor of the trade books department. She has written various fiction and non-fiction books, including the novel Dwelling Places with HarperOne, Days of Deepening Friendship and The Art of Spiritual Writing for Loyola Press, and most recently, The St. Teresa of Avila Prayer Book for Paraclete Press. Vinita is a student and practitioner of Ignatian spirituality, and from 2009 to 2015 she blogged at Days of Deepening Friendship. For the past few years, she has co-led small groups through the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises. She lives in Chicago with her husband, three cats, and a dog. In her “spare” time these days, she is working on her next novel.

2 Comments on Arts & Faith: Christmas Imaginative Prayer Exercise

  1. Thank you for reminding us joy and hope which the little baby Jesus together with his small humble family as brought us in our every day live.

  2. Thank you Vinita for reminding us so vividly of the joy and hope that litle baby Jesus together with his small humble family brings us every day of our lives.

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