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Food for Thought - Manna

12 Days of Christmas (12 days of reflections)

12 Days of Christmas


Introduction

The 12 Days of Christmas is a series of 12 meditations designed to help you recapture, embrace, ponder and experience the wonder, mystery and profound simplicity of the Christmas story. You will be invited to enter into the narrative as it unfolds, watching, listening and interacting with the actual participants in the story.


To get the most out of each meditation, plan on spending 30 - 55 minutes with the passage. This time would include journaling.


Preparation

For your time of meditation, choose a quiet place that is free from distractions.

Gather all your materials (Bible, journal, a couple of pens) ahead of time.


Additional Tips

1. As you go to bed at night, briefly look over the passage on which you will be meditating the following day.

2. When you awake, focus your thoughts on that which you will be meditating that day.

3. As you enter into your prayer time, remind yourself into whose presence you are entering.

4. Experiment with different postures (kneeling, sitting, standing,prostrate, etc.). Seek to choose positions that seem to be helpful in reinforcing your internal mood and/or capturing the feeling of the prescribed meditation.

5. After finishing your time, take a few moments to review what happened during that time: joys, sadness, fear, drowsiness, anxiety, boredom, drawn to God, drawn away from God etc.

6. Seek to remain in the feelings that surface during the time of meditation.


The above tips are given as possible aids to your daily times of prayer. They are suggestions for you to experiment with from time to time in order to discover if they might be at all helpful to you.


DAY 1 & 2

The first two days of the 12 Days of Christmas focus on the mystery of the incarnation. You will focus on the preexistent Christ and His choice not to hold onto what was His, but rather to take the form of a baby, a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger who was born to die on a cross.

Using the method for reading the Word stated below (“Suggested Structure”), slowly read (listen with your heart) the passage indicated for the particular day on which you are focusing. Once you have completed your time in the Word, journal concerning your experience, feelings and insights.


Suggested Structure:

  • Prayer Commit self, time to God Ask God to guide and direct you

  • Interaction with Scripture Read the passage for the day slowly, deliberately seeking to hear the voice of God. Slowly read the passage 2-3 times until a word or phrase seems to choose you.

  • Meditation Once a word or phrase chooses you, begin to sit with it, turning it over in your mind and heart. Once again, you are listening for the still small voice of God, as well as your own internal thoughts and feelings. Explore what arises within you, interacting with God as you work through this process.

Then spend some time pondering the questions associated with the day’s passage. The goal is not to finish but rather to open oneself up to God and self in a way that invites God to have God’s way with you. God may convict, challenge, encourage, strengthen, increase your appetite for God…don’t rush through this time. Take time to speak with God and listen to God.

  • Prayer Close time in prayer, sharing your heart with the Triune God – giving thanks, praising and expressing your commitment to carry something from your time with God with you throughout the rest of your day.

  • Sit with God Take a minute or two to just sit with God, reflecting on God’s unconditional, nothing-can-separate-you love that God has for you.

  • Journal Take a couple of minutes to reflect on what has taken place within your heart between you and God.

Day 1: Using the method described above slowly read John 1:1-5.

What does this passage tell you about who Jesus was and is? How do these truths impact how you live? What feelings do they stir within you? How does this knowledge of Christ make you feel about the coming of Jesus in the form of a newborn baby, the creator God nursing at the breast of a teenage mother?


Day 2: Using the method described above slowly read Philippians 2:5-8

Spend time reflecting on the mystery of Jesus coming in the form of a newborn baby, not grasping what was rightfully His but laying it aside and coming to give, coming to give His life for you.


DAYS 3 -12


During days 3 – 12 of the 12 Days of Christmas you will be invited to enter the narrative as a participant. Using the method for reading the Word stated below (Imaginative Reading), you will spend your prayer time each day living out portions of the Christmas story. As you enter and walk through the passage be aware of what you are feeling, seeing, hearing, smelling, and noticing, as well as what you are drawn to, what are you resisting, what emotions are stirred within you, what you are feeling toward the others in the story, and what are you feeling about Jesus.

You will be provided questions as prompts to help you think through your experience. Once you have finished entering into and interacting with the narrative, journal about your experience, feelings and insights.


Imaginative Reading of Scripture


1. Pointers for using one’s imagination:

Use your imagination to picture a scene or event from Scripture. Let your senses come into play; sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste. Place yourself in the scene as an onlooker or as a participant in the action, allowing the drama of the story to make its impact on you. Be open to what the Lord wants to show you or say to you. Be open to any revelation or insight that may come through your imaginative contemplation. Some people are especially adept at such use of the imagination [a right brain activity] and can see a Biblical story quite clearly, even in vivid colors. However, even if you do not have a well-developed imagination (I for one do not), imagine as you are able to, being patient with this form of prayer, trusting the Lord to enlarge your ability to interact with the Scriptures in this way. As you enter into Imaginative Reading be on guard, ready to reject or put aside any images that come which are a violation of the Bible’s moral code or that violate Scripture in any way and are thus not of the Holy Spirit.


2. A Method

Step one: Read the story several times. As you do so, pay attention to the details of the passage. Notice the setting, the characters, and the situation. Who is the central figure? What is the problem? What is the outcome? What is unusual about this story? How does it connect with your life situation? Read the account enough times to understand its main point and be familiar with its details.

Step two: Get quiet in yourself and focus on openness to God. Find a place and a posture that will allow you to meditate. Relax your body. Slow your breathing. At the same time, be in prayer, asking God for guidance.

Step three: Imagine yourself as the participant in the story as indicated for the particular day of your meditation. Put yourself in that place and time. Begin by noticing the details in the story. What do you see? Smell? Feel? Hear? Taste? Think? Watch the situation as it unfolds. Listen to what is said. What is said to you? If Jesus is in the story, go to Him. Tell Him about your concerns. Listen to His response. Reply to Him.

Step four: Let your mind move slowly from the past to the present. Take with you the “feel” of the whole experience. Present that to God. Be open to God. Thank God. Listen to God.

Step Five: After your period of prayer comes to an end, review for a few minutes by reflecting upon what took place during the prayer. What happened to you in your experience? What did you notice as standing out even slightly? Is there something you should return to in a later period of prayer? Give thanks to the Lord for being with you during this time.

Imaginative Reading helps make the text come alive. As you apply this practice to your encounters with God’s Word you will experience the stuff of the Scriptures and hear from God as never before. Scripture reading will be transformed into a multi-dimensional encounter with the Living God. The stories themselves will take on a depth and richness that will infuse your time in the Word with delight, joy and insight. As you place yourself in the passages of Scripture and simultaneously place yourself in the presence of God, asking God to guide and direct your thoughts and insights, your love for God and for others will grow and you will be transformed more and more into the image of Jesus. Be patient with yourself as you enter into this way of interacting with the Scriptures. Do not try to force anything to happen. Merely enter into the experience through the use of your God-given imagination the best you can.


Suggested Structure:

  • Prayer
    Commit self, time to God
    Ask God to guide and direct you

  • Interaction with Scripture
    Using your God-given imagination, enter into the narrative (see steps listed above). Proceed through the story slowly, focusing on your feelings, actions, motivations and discoveries about God and yourself.

  • Meditation
    Sit with those things that you were drawn to, those things that you were resistant toward, and those things that surprised and/or shocked you. Sit and listen for the still small voice of God, as well as your own internal thoughts and feelings. Explore what has risen and what arises within you during this time of meditation, interacting with God as you work through this process.

During this time it may be helpful to ponder the questions associated with the day’s passage.

The goal is not to finish but rather to open oneself up to God and self in a way that invites God to have God’s way with you. God may convict, challenge, encourage, strengthen, increase your appetite for God…don’t rush through this time. Take time to speak with God and listen to God.

  • Prayer
    Close time in prayer, sharing your heart with the Triune God – giving thanks, praise and expressing your commitment to carry something from your time with God with you throughout the rest of your day.
  • Sit with God
    Take a minute or two to just sit with God, reflecting on God’s unconditional, nothing-can-separate-you love that God has for you.


Day 3: Matthew 1:18 – 25 Using the steps for Imaginative Reading (prayer) outlined above,

walk through the Biblical narrative imagining that you are Joseph.


What would your reaction have been? What would you have done? What would you be feeling? What do Joseph’s responses reveal about his faith and trust in God? What about your responses? What do they reveal about your faith and trust in God?



Day 4: Matthew 1:23 Spend your time today pondering and journaling about the
implications of the name Immanuel (God with Us), which was given to Jesus.


What does this name convey to you and stir within you? How might a deeper internalized awareness of the Immanuel change how you live your life and interact with others?



Day 5: Luke 1:26 – 39 Using the steps for Imaginative Reading (prayer) outlined above, walk th
rough the Biblical narrative imagining that you are Mary, an unwed but pledged young girl in a male dominated culture were you can rightfully be killed for being unfaithful to your husband-to-be.


Listen to the words of the angel. What feelings do they stir within you? Why?



Day 6: Luke 1:38 Sit with Mary’s response to God, a response that springs from a deep
place of trust and very little understanding.

What is your level of trust in God (not trust in God doing what you want God to do for you but trust in the person and character of God, come what may)? What does Mary's response show about her face? What does her response tell us about Mary? How does Mary's response to the angel challenge you?



Day 7: Luke 1:37 Sit with these words of the Angel to Mary (to you).

Do you believe them to be true? Do you live your life in a way that would confirm or deny your answer? How might your life be different if you really believed these words? What is your level of trust in God (not trust in God doing what you want God to do for you but trust in the person and character of God, come what may)? How might your trust in the person and character of God be expanded and deepened?



Day 8: Luke 1:46 – 55 Spend your time discovering what this passage reveals about
Mary’s understanding of herself, her child, and her God.



Day 9: Luke 2:1-7 Using the steps for Imaginative Reading (prayer) outlined above,

walk through the Biblical narrative imagining you are Joseph and/or Mary.


What are you feeling as labor begins? What are you feeling as you hear the baby’s first sounds? As you hold Immanuel, God with us, in your arms? As you look into the eyes of the Lord your God? As you remember the Angels words to you? As you watch the creator of heaven and earth get his first mouth folds of nourishment at Mary's (your) breast?



Day 10: Luke 2:8-14 Using the steps for Imaginative Reading (prayer) outlined above,

walk through the Biblical narrative imagining you are a shepherd.


What are you feeling as you see the angels and hear the message they bring? What does it feel like to have the angel tell you, a lowly shepherd, this good news? What does this tell you about God? What is it that drives you to the manger (curiosity, hope, boredom, peer pressure, etc.)? What are you feeling and thinking as you run to the manger? Why doesn’t anything else matter to you except going to see this newborn baby?



Day 11: Luke 2:15-20 Using the steps for Imaginative Reading (prayer) outlined above,

walk through the Biblical narrative imagining you are a shepherd.


You see the baby and recall the words of the Angel spoken to you, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

What feelings stir within you as you see the Christ, the Messiah, the One who will deliver you and your people? How does it feel to be one of the first visitors, one invited by God the Father?



Day 12: Matthew 2:1-12 Using the steps for Imaginative Reading (prayer) outlined above,

walk through the Biblical narrative imagining you are one of the Magi.


Your journey has reached the end and you stand before the toddler, Jesus. What are you thinking and feeling? You lay your gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh down before Him, two of which are used in the preparation of bodies for burial. What are you feeling as you look upon this small child, as you look at the gifts that you brought him?

BONUS MEDITATION: Luke 2:15 – 20 Imagine you were
directly addressed by the angels
and invited to go to
the manger and you go.


What was it like to be personally addressed by an angel? When you arrive at the manger where do you stand? What do you do, say? Imagine Mary calling you to come closer and as you get closer she gently hands you Jesus. What goes on in your heart? What do you feel? What is it like to hold the creator and sustainer of all that is seen and unseen in your arms, to see his little hands and feet, to feel him gripping your finger? What do you see in his eyes? What do you say to the Lord your God as you cradle him in your arms?


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