The following was posted in the weekly news sheet I produce for our parish.
“Saturday, 16th December, 10.00 am to 12.00 pm at St. Francis—Advent Prayer Morning. Take some time out to reflect on the Christmas story in a range of ways. Please pop in and spend a few minutes, or a lot if you wish, in quiet. There will be prayer stations for you to visit or you can just sit and have some space. Refreshments will be provided.”
When I read the above invitation, I was more than interested in attending; I told myself that I was going to participate. It took a determined decision, as it was going to be a busy day. “Jame-O”, our second-oldest grandson, had come to spend the weekend with us. I was still trying to get my Christmas cards completed.
When I mentioned to “Maverick” that I wanted to go, he said that he too wanted to take time to participate. Since “Jame-O” was with us, he had no choice but to go with us. But he seemed glad enough to do so.
When I arrived at St. Francis, I found that the organiser had put up five stations around the walls and three/four large tables in the middle of the room. At each station there were craft supplies by way of using one’s imagination to meditate, and interact with the reflection.
The temptation to walk around and survey each of the prayer stations and accompanying activity challenged me. But I’d been instantly drawn to the table with a wooden nativity set and knew that a wonder around the room would simple be procrastination. The tableaux were carved from light wood, lightly polished. The Baby Jesus was lying with it’s arms outstretched, indicating His adult purpose.
The instruction sheet read: “Spend some time looking at the Nativity Scene. Although this event occurred over 2000 years ago, we play a major role in this story. And although we were not physically present, we can still connect to this scene.
“Think about which character in this scene you identify most with at this point in your life: the new mother, the worried father, the lowly shepherds, the travelling Magi, the animals wondering at the spectacle happening in their stable…
“Use the paper people to make your likeness, or simply write your name on it. Then place it in the Nativity scene as a way of symbolically connecting to the story and entering into the mystery of the Advent Season.”
After removing my coat, taking my notebook from the backpack, I sat down. As I settled in the chair, I purposed to engage with the Holy Spirit. I took a deep breath, trying to shift from the busyness of the morning into a slower frame of mind. I’d felt restless, distracted, harried by the interruptions of the morning. When I stopped, opened my mind and heart to the leading of the Holy Spirit, I felt the Presence of Jesus draw near. My heart welled up with peace, and my eyes filled with tears.
I re-read the instructions. With whom do I most identify?
The central person in the story is Mary. The day before I’d finally had a chance to hold my newest baby grandson, “Billy”. He wasn’t yet a month old. Truly, holding an infant is a “Mommy-Nanna” moment. The humble obedience of the young woman, Mary, has often made me marvel. Yet, I felt no connection with her.
I’m an animal lover. A person only has to watch me with Maisy to know how soft-hearted (soft-in-the head?) I am when it comes to interacting with her and other animals. I find them entertaining, and believe we don’t give them credit for just how cleaver they are. But for this task of meditating, identifying, and attempting to find wonder, I feel no connection.
The shepherds…I wait…but no, I have no sense of any emotions they might have felt that touch me in these quiet moments.
Momentarily my heart is tempted to be discouraged, to despair even. There seems to be no affinity with this holy scene or the people in it.
But wait! The Magi! What about the Wise Men, seeking, travelling? They travel to find their heart’s desire, a new king, a new kingdom. They purpose to deliver their specific gifts to the Child of Salvation.
In that moment it happens—the divine spark that captures my heart, my imagination.
In the Autumn of this year I took a journey. Like Mary and Joseph, I travelled to the place of my roots. Instead of bearing gifts, I had gone looking for information, inspiration and hospitality. During that pilgrimage to Indiana, the Holy Spirit led me to all which I sought. I was able to connect deeply with my calling, my passion and my purpose. Like the Wise Men, I was developing my talent to present to Jesus.
I turned to the task given in the instructions—creating the cardboard image of myself. I selected a white paper figure to represent my likeness, for God had created me with fair skin. I found a yellow dress in the paper clothing. Two reasons for the yellow dress: (1) yellow is my favourite colour;
(2) as a response to a word given to me by a dear friend. On 25th September 2017 our friend, “Parkie” took “Maverick” and me to Wisley Gardens, in the County of Surrey. It was a wonderful day, because the autumn colours were just beginning to come on. We had gone to the café for lunch, and the menfolk had gone to get use drinks, while I sat outside at the table. As I was sitting there a little gold finch flew so near I wanted to reach out and touch it. “Parkie” noticed and remarked about how close they were to me. As we sat talking, “Parkie” suddenly said “You said that yellow is your favourite colour. Well, for you, things are no longer going to be all black and white. They’re going to be black and yellow.” I am still pondering those words, and how they apply to me.
To the wee form I added a scarf, also with yellow flowers. Because the colours choices for hair did not include grey cut-outs, I chose brown hair. My hair had been brown in my youth.
Like the wise men, I am on a journey to deliver my gift back to God. My gift of gold—worship, frankincense—prayers and intercessions, and myrrh —the sacrifice of praise in the midst of trials, tribulation and temptations.
God reaffirmed to me that He did not want me to identify with poverty, failure, shame and condemnation. I am not a pauper, an orphan with stains on my dress, my hands, my face. I am to own the identity of a new creation. I know my God appointed purpose, my calling. I am a Princess of the Most High God, dressed in acceptance, clothed in beauty, representing the Kingdom of Heaven.
Serving Jesus, Author of our faith,