Even as it slipped out of my mouth, it startled me. “There was no donkey. Mary and Joseph did not have a donkey.” The intensity was what was surprising, as if someone was speaking blasphemy. Thankfully, I was with a group of people who know how to laugh and find humor in things, and we all laughed. Much deserved teasing ensued later, and I am sure I will never live that moment down. I would like to blame it on hormones, or tiredness but as I am heading down this trail of wonder toward Christmas, and practicing being still and considering, I heard a quiet whisper in my soul as I thought back on this event. God was whispering that I was squashing my own wonder, and squashing the wonder of others for that matter, because I felt the need to police the story, keep it safe and pure, not allowing any imagination to touch it. I am not sure where this came from, this need to police the scripture, and keep imagination far away from it. I grew up in the Catholic background that involves using all the senses to experience the holy days and scriptures. That is one of the things I miss around Christmas and Easter. Stain glass and paintings throughout church history are a reflection of people imagining, and entering into the scriptures for themselves.
So with that as a heritage, I am not sure where this need to police the scriptures came from. Yes, there is a need to hold true to scripture, but if someone imagines Mary and Joseph possibly riding a donkey, it most likely will not destroy their faith, or cause a new heresy to arise in the church. I think of how many things I thought about stories in the Bible for a long time a certain way, and then would learn something that added light to it, and helped it become clearer. So my self designated role of scripture police in any group was obviously foolish, besides the fact that God really does not need me in that role. He can more than handle keeping His truth available for all, and use His word anyway He chooses. He has been doing it for thousands of years.
As I am traveling toward Christmas with this desire to increase my wonder, and realizing how protective I have been in away that has prevented me from imagining, and stunted my wonder, confuses me. I am a curious person by nature, I love learning and helping others to want to learn. As I am desiring to regain this wonder of Christmas, I was reminded of a practice of Ignatius of Loyola during the 1500s, Gospel Contemplation. In this practice you pick a passage that Jesus is interacting with people, focus your heart and mind on God as you enter the story, ask God for desire to meet Him in the scene, read the passage a few times to become familiar, then close your eyes and try to picture the scene, look for details, sights, sounds, smells, what might people be saying, or doing?, take time to directly speak to Jesus. Christina Miller writes that, “Over time, this exercise can help you become more aware of God’s presence in every aspect of your life. As you attune your senses to how God is moving in Scripture, you can begin to recognize God’s presence with you today. This heightened awareness lets you sense God’s Spirit living among us, God’s Word alive and active (John 16:13, Hebrews 4:12).” I definitely want that. As I realize how much I have been missing, I choose to be still and consider, to practice gospel contemplation as I interact with the different stories of Christmas, and allow God to restore my wonder and thankfully free me from my self hired role of donkey police.