On an individually directed retreat over 20 years ago I was encouraged to use my imagination to meditate on the nativity scene; to imagine that I was really there; and then to imagine what I might have to say to Mary and Joseph and what they might say to me. It took me back to my childhood when I loved to visit the crib in church. It always looked really cosy. Unlike the small crib at home, I could easily have climbed into it and snuggled down in the straw with Mary, Joseph and the baby.
As I entered into the meditation I found myself knocking at the stable door. After a while Joseph answered. I didn't need to introduce myself. Amazingly Joseph knew me. 'Who's that?' a woman's voice called from the back. 'It's John,' said Joseph. 'He's come to see the baby.' And so I was beckoned in. And there was Mary holding the child. She looked up and smiled at me. I was lost for words. And then she said, 'Would you like to hold him?' And so I did.
After the retreat the group spent a few days reflecting on our experience and how it had helped us. To my surprise I discovered that all those who had done that particular meditation on the Nativity had had a similar experience. Each of us had been invited by Mary to hold the baby.
One feature of the Gospel accounts of the birth and childhood of Jesus is that in Matthew's Gospel Joseph dreams, and in Luke's Gospel Mary ponders. It has been suggested that Luke's source for the events surrounding Jesus' birth comes from Mary herself. She pondered these sacred moments throughout her life. And Joseph dreamt. At Christmas time we too are invited to relive these events at the crib; to dream and to ponder.