Listen to the Spirit… adapt as needed…
stay longer where you are drawn…
“To be able to enter into the deep-down stillness of this night, to be able to see this very human baby with all the wonder that comes from eyes of faith, to watch how Mary and Joseph handle themselves, their own response to God at this time–these are various aspects or focuses of the mystery to which I may find myself drawn.” – Spiritual Exercises #111-116
Suggested Song: “The Truth is Who You Are” (Tenth Avenue North)
Grace to seek/ask: To have a greater openness to discovering God in the person of Jesus…to explore God’s love for us through His becoming one of us in Christ…
Luke 1:26-38 – “…Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High…”
John 1:1-18 – “…And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth…”
Mtt. 1:18-2:12 – “Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about…When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem…”
Invite members to reflect on how they come to the meeting. Try to keep this short, focused on how people’s hearts are as they come to the meeting. Pose one or two questions that encourage people to look back on their week and also help to set the theme for the meeting.
In the previous section, we looked a bit more at who God is for each of us and considered more intentionally whether or not we believe God is unconditionally loving or to what degree we embrace God as Love. Last time, we looked at God as a communion of self-giving love–a Trinity of persons giving and being given in love.
We now have the opportunity to move from discovering God more generally to discovering God more specifically through the person of Jesus. Everyone is always welcome to participate and share in this group, no matter how any of us identifies spiritually or religiously. This section, however, will center around considering the person of Jesus, the second person of the Trinity–God incarnate for Christians. We may each relate to or have different feelings about Jesus. He may or may not be a friend, teacher, role model, brother, or even God for any one of us. Can we allow ourselves to encounter these meetings as we each find ourselves now in life? Can we be with each other with openness, generosity, and courage?…
(Ask if anyone would like to share a thought or concern about this section. If there are any issues that would prevent the group from moving forward in the meeting tonight, address them as sensitively as possible as a group. If you are able to resolve these issues now, thank everyone for their honesty and continue to move forward with the meeting as outlined below. If there are significant concerns, ask the group to consider using the remainder of the meeting to pray about and discuss these issues together. Reassess if the group is ready to move forward during the next meeting.)
If we are ready to begin, then, we will start by creating space to freely to encounter Jesus in prayer, particularly in his humanity. Just as how the way we each relate to God can be affected by our life circumstances (for better or worse), the way we imagine and relate to Jesus can be similarly shaped by our teachers, friends, family, societies, and communities of faith. Often, connecting to Jesus on a more personal, human level can allow us to be ourselves with him and to create space in our hearts to have him reveal himself to us–beyond our images and expectations. So to help us be open to encountering Jesus, we will pray using a form of prayer called “Ignatian contemplation” that was popularized by St. Ignatius of Loyola.
We will use this form of prayer throughout this section. Tonight, let’s use it to pray specifically with the Incarnation–one of God’s ultimate acts of love for us, dramatically demonstrating how God desires to be with us. We may be so familiar with the “Christmas stories” surrounding Jesus’ birth that we can sometimes become desensitized to the incredibility of this core aspect of Christian faith–”God-become-human” for us.
We’ll listen to a recording of a guided contemplation on Jesus’ birth, imagined based on the gospel accounts. Before trying it ourselves, let’s look at the handout for tonight (“Ignatian Contemplation”) to learn about this way of praying and what it often involves. It may be familiar to some of us and completely new for others…
(After reading the handout aloud or silently together, ask if anyone has any questions or if anyone may have had experience with this kind of prayer before. Go over the steps on the back of the handout to help familiarize everyone with the process. Then invite everyone to find a comfortable, upright position and close their eyes. Play the recording loud enough for everyone to hear…but not too loudly. Allow at least 25 minutes to complete the contemplation. If you have trouble accessing the MP3 with the earlier link, please try going to this site instead. Then select “Lk 2:4-10 – The Birth of Jesus”.)
Listening and Sharing
- What feelings, movements, or insights did I notice stirring within me?
- Did I listen from my heart or lead from my head?
- How were God and I present to or absent from each other? Did I feel close to or withdrawn from God?
- Where might I be invited to listen deeper or return to in prayer?
These are questions that allow community members to listen to and share about what is moving within them after the focus exercise. Specific questions about the focus exercise can be included here, but facilitators may choose to approach it differently such as with more open ended questions.
- What has struck you as you have been listening to others share? Do you notice any patterns or similarities?
- How have you been feeling throughout the meeting? Comfortable? Anxious? Curious?
- Is there anything you would like to share after listening to another person share?
- What is remaining with you? What do you hope to return to in prayer at another point in the week?
Thank you to those who hosted the meeting. Thank you everyone for being present and participating. Let us remember and lift-up one another in prayer, especially for any special intentions which may have surfaced through our conversation tonight.
To further explore Ignatian contemplation and the Incarnation, perhaps we could spend our personal prayer time outside of the group continuing to sit with the birth of Christ. Using the handout “Contemplation on the Nativity”, maybe we could each try praying in this way that St. Ignatius encourages a few times before our next meeting in order to get even more in-touch with “God-become-human”.
Write a prayer that fits the meeting or ask if anyone from the group would like to offer a spontaneous prayer.