“I Am Joseph (God Is With Us)” by Steven Curtis Chapman

By Bryn Rademaker

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, y’all!  These past celebrations of Christmas and New Year’s, family get-togethers, reconnecting with friends from back home, eating tons and tons of delicious food, traveling the country to see people… Wouldn’t you think it’s all a fun, exciting vacation? 

Amidst the excitement of the holiday season, it can be extremely easy to get caught up in the busyness of it all. In America, we seem to look past the beautiful opportunity that’s in front of us this time of the year: a time for rest and rejuvenation of mind, body, and soul. 

For me, this Christmas season seemed to fly by after traveling to half a dozen get-togethers, seeing and even meeting a great number of people. It wasn’t until celebrating the Feast of the Holy Family at Mass the Sunday after Christmas that I realized I too had fallen into the trap of business this holiday season.

After receiving Holy Communion, my family and I knelt back in our pews to pray our prayers of thanksgiving. As I began to pray, I suddenly became aware of the Lord’s perfect presence within me and was given an incredible image: I took the place of Joseph, holding the infant Jesus in the manger while Mary embraced us both.

Phew. As you can imagine, tears flooded my eyes and I became instantly grateful for the beautiful gift of the scene the Lord was placing me in. It wasn’t until I allowed myself to rest and be in the Lord’s presence that I was taken out of the craziness of the holidays.

My friends, God blessed us all with a wild and amazing imagination, calling each of us to use it for His glory. In this month’s tune, Steven Curtis Chapman beautifully paints multiple images of the story of Christ’s coming at Christmas. From the perspective of a few characters traveling to the holy manger, “I Am Joseph (God Is With Us)” gives us the opportunity to be placed in the shoes of Joseph, Mary, a shepherd, Herod, and even the wise men.

The first time I heard this song, it reminded me of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a great man from the 1500s who taught us all a new form of prayer called Ignatian Meditation. His idea was that we can relate with the Lord in prayer not only through Lectio Devina (praying with Scripture) but also by placing ourselves in the Scripture stories we read. Like Chapman sings, we can stand in the shoes of St. Joseph and Mary and can experience their thoughts and feelings along their journey:

I am Joseph, I am Mary, I’m traveling on a journey
And I’m carrying a promise I can’t see
I am scared and I’m excited
I don’t really know what lies ahead of me

This is one of my absolute favorite methods of prayer—as a visual learner, I seem to understand and grasp ideas more concretely when I can see/picture them in front of me. Praying via Ignatian Meditation doesn’t have to be complex or even super long since it can be at any pace and to any extent you allow it to be. 

Simply put, here are broad instructions of what to do when praying by way of Ignatian Meditation:

    1. After choosing a Scripture passage, begin by inviting the Holy Spirit to guide your meditation, and pray for the grace to fully dive into the passage.
  2. READ & FIND
    1. Read the passage you chose once (and pause 1-2 minutes after), listening for broad ideas such as:
      1. The setting—where does this take place?
      2. The characters—who is involved?
      3. The story line—what happens?
    1. Read the passage a second time (and pause 1-2 minutes after), listening now for more detailed ideas such as:
      1. Who are the main characters?
      2. Who else is involved/in the background?
      3. What is everyone doing?
      4. How do they interact with one another?
      5. What kind of atmosphere is it?
  4. READ & BE
    1. Read the passage a third time (and pause 1-2 minutes after), placing yourself even more in the story and asking yourself:
      1. Who are you (which character in the story)?
      2. What are you doing?
      3. What are you thinking / feeling?
      4. What emotions do you notice?
    1. Pray with the story and let your imagination flow (about 10 minutes), noting the character you are and what went on.
  6. PRAY
    1. Finish your prayer by asking the Lord what He desires from you through this meditation and for continued grace from it while also resting in the Lord’s presence. 

Since this is my simplified version of the Ignatian prayer process, I suggest reading Meditation and Contemplation: An Ignatian Guide to Praying with Scripture by Timothy M. Gallagher, OMV. He goes into great depth of the background, ideas, details, and process of Ignatian Meditation and also provides a few guided meditations to try with amazing Scripture passages.

I invite you to try out this method of prayer this new year whether you have done it a million times, have tried it only a few times, or are completely new to it. My hope and prayer is that you allow yourself to rest, to dive in, and to experience the Lord in prayer through the gift of your imagination—GO GET ‘EM!

So let’s all gather at the manger
And bring all our hopes and hurts and fears
All our unworthiness and shame
Knowing every one of us is the reason that He came.

~Steven Curtis Chapman is a Kentucky-born, Jesus-loving artist who has not only composed numerous popular Christian albums but who is also a huge advocate for many other Christian-related campaigns. Winning 5 Grammy awards and 58 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, he has become the top award winner of these in history. Part of his testimony involves the tragic death of his little 5-year-old girl, Maria, in 2008, and he openly shares that this accident changed his/his family’s lives (as sung in his famous song “Cinderella”). Other awesome tunes to check out by Steven Curtis Chapman are “I Will Be Here,” “We Will Dance,” and “Cinderella.”

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