When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
There are lots of characters doing lots of things in this chapter of Luke. I don't remember the first time I read a scripture and imagined myself as one of the characters in the story. I was young. I often imagined myself as heroes and other characters in books like My Side of the Mountain and Robin Hood. So it seemed the next logical step. At some point, a teacher even encouraged me to do this. I've found it's one of my best spiritual practices for reading scripture. In fact, choosing different ones each time is challenging and helps me see new perspectives, to try on each person and perspective, to not only give that character a life and depth they had in ancient times, but to see things with new eyes.
This can be an amazing opportunity as you read these familiar stories at Advent. Perhaps you've always liked the shepherds and wondered at their emotions and experiences being invited in that way and being the first to see the Christ child. Perhaps there's a point of view you've never explored. Have you ever imagined yourself as a part of the heavenly host singing? Maybe you're a teenage girl and you've never imagined being a Magi or you're an older man who has never tried to imagine being a teenage girl expecting a child out of wedlock in that time and place. Or perhaps you're not of middle eastern descent and every point of view is new for you. Perhaps imagining being someone young and vulnerable from that area of the world who then has to flee persecution with your family would be a holy exercise for you this season that might shape your worldview and politics and radical hospitality.
As you read these stories at home this Advent, and I truly hope you do and will, and as you hear them read, my prayer is you will reawaken an imagination that maybe you don't use so often or for such holy purposes. I hope you will imagine you are these people in these moments. And I hope you'll allow the Spirit to come and fill you with insight and wonder, as they surely were.
Prayer for Today
Lord, help me to have eyes to see as your chosen people saw in Bethlehem. Help me to have a heart shaped by miracles. And Lord, help me to be transformed by these experiences and eager to share them. Amen.