Ignatius would have us stay a while within the poverty and humility of the stable. The child’s birth begins a statement about who he is. These events and the conditions around us are important words here at the beginning of his long sentence of love.
As we sit watching, we might consider any anxiety we have about our being there. Presence is everything if we are going to become familiar with his ways. What’s the hurry? We watch and listen. In our imaginations, perhaps our own loved ones come to visit us there. What would we tell them about the things to which we have been present? Perhaps we would feel in prayer that we wanted our old friends to meet our new ones. Is there joy in our heart while we are walking quietly over to where Mary is holding the baby? Is there a reverent familiarity within us as we sit and talk with Joseph and our visitors?
There are ways to know facts and a different way we grow to know persons. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph are people and Ignatius would have us be a person and know personally those we meet here in the stable and all those whom we will see in the weeks to come. In the human process of becoming friends, we move through stages. It all begins with watching and listening and receiving whatever is being offered. We move to being acquaintances and then friends and then closer than that, partners or companions. These days we are available to be impressed by what we see and hear.
It is good for us to linger here and begin moving closer and closer not only to the crib and child but also to the personal reality of this earth-shaping event. What of the mysterious God is being manifested in this poor setting? The embrace of the loving God extends from the smallest cave to the largest planet. This God comes to everyone’s stable if there is the emptiness there for a welcome. In a sense, after Bethlehem, there is nothing new to be seen but much to be understood. God’s judgments are not our own. God’s ways are higher and God’s judgments of what is important are lower, and they meet in this lowly place where only the humble can see and believe.
So we sit for a while on a patch of straw and begin to admit. We admit him a little more each day into our own stables. We admit mystery and that we do not have it all figured out. We admit that we are loved in strange ways. We begin to admit that God’s ways are beginning to attract us. We admit we need to stay here a little longer and watch our own spirits rise.