Imagining the Nativity

Around this time of the liturgical year our focus turns to the birth of Jesus: God entering into the world with all its beauty and all its mess. The Baby Jesus isn’t up to doing much yet, but God is very much at work in the lives of all sorts of people around him. Sometimes they cooperate with God’s grace and sometimes they don’t. We can find ourselves in them.

Jesuit Media Initiatives and the Diocese of Westminster Marriage and Family Life team have joined forces to produce a series of imaginative contemplations to help families journey alongside the Holy Family in prayer this Advent.

The series of six imaginative contemplations, plus an introduction, will be available to listen to or download from the Jesuits’ spirituality website Pathways to God, from 22nd November. Each contemplation focusses on a person or group from the Nativity story – Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the Magi - who will all be very familiar to children. Each session will have its own suggested storyline and you are invited to imagine and reflect along with it.

Jane Hellings, Director of Jesuit Media Initiatives, commented: “Saint Ignatius believed that God could speak to us just as clearly in our imagination as through our thoughts and our memories. In his Spiritual Exercises he writes of contemplation as a very active way of engaging your feelings, emotions, and senses to place yourself in the scene described. Whilst these Advent contemplations are available for everyone, they are designed to be particularly effective as a way of fully entering into scripture reflectively, and then as a springboard for discussion within couples and families. We hope however these will be widely used by all, whether single, married or otherwise.”

Ruth Morris, Senior Digital Manager for the Jesuits, worked with Producer Emma Holland, and spiritual director Steve Hoyland, who wrote the contemplations. She observed, “Praying with the imagination means we put aside questions about historical certainty in the text, or the accuracy of what we are seeing in our minds eye. We are invited into the stories as they are presented to us, and as they unfold in our own minds and hearts. We offer our faculties to God and ask the Holy Spirit to work with us. Something of the dreaming of Joseph, visits of angels, and the dreaming of wise men is catching then. We allow ourselves to daydream - with a purpose, to receive God’s messengers, noticing God at work in a real and messy world, through people like ourselves, individuals, couples, families.”

Marriage and Family Life Co-ordinator at Westminster Diocese, Deacon Roger Carr-Jones explains the thinking behind the collaboration: “The health of the family and the health of the parish family primarily rests on the quality of the soil in which it is planted, from which it takes nourishment and is watered. We invite families this Advent to embark on a special journey: one where we can reflect on the composition and healthiness of the earth in the domestic setting of the home and in the context of the parish. Nurturing our family relationships is not unlike the care we need to show to the soil across the year, with times for feeding, watering, sowing, harvesting and resting. It is our hope that this journey along the road to Bethlehem with the Holy Family provides the chance to reflect more deeply on the dynamic of the family setting, to seek the healing that might be needed, or simply by the time we arrive at the manger to give thanks for what our family is and can be as we hold that tiny infant in our arms and marvel. Together, let us join Joseph as he leads the donkey, and Mary as she marvels, walking beside her along the star-path to Bethlehem.”

“The Christian life can be best expressed and understood in the context of family, both domestic and parish. In an age beset with prophets of doom, the gentle example of the Holy Family is a helpful reminder that at different times and in different ways families experience joys and sorrows, grow through meeting challenges and adversity together, and flower by ensuring that at all times the soil of those relationships is fed by a daily encounter and sense of rapture with the Living God.”

Listen to the Introduction:

Pray-as-you-go, the Jesuits’ daily prayer podcast, has produced a series of imaginative contemplations based on key encounters in the life of Christ. Listen to the exercises