Making Room

We all know the story.  A cold December night in a small town.  Every available room was already taken by travelers.  Mary was about to give birth and Joseph was anxious to find them a warm and safe place for the night.  St. Luke tells us he chose a spot where animals were kept, probably a cave, “because there was no room for them” (Luke 2:7).  We hear the story and we say to ourselves that the innkeeper was hard-hearted and the townspeople were thoughtless and self-centered.  How could anyone turn away a family in such need?  And certainly now, knowing who this family is and Who is about to be born—there’s no way we’d turn them out into the night.
Jesus knows us perfectly.  He knew that someday we’d be telling ourselves how much more compassionate and accepting we are than that jerk of an innkeeper.  He knows our hearts because He made our hearts.  That’s why He tells us in Matthew that whenever we see a poor person, a sick person, an immigrant, a prisoner, or anyone in need that we are seeing Him in disguise.  The innkeeper’s heart is our heart, too.  When we turn away from the ones who need us most, we’re telling Christ:  there’s no room in my life or in my heart for You.  Advent is the season of making room.  In the womb of the Virgin.  In the life of St. Joseph.  In the stable with the shepherds.  In a sinful, lost and hurting world.  What has to move over when we make room for Christ?  Our fears of what will happen if we’re no longer the one in control of our lives. Our distrust of people who don’t look or act or pray exactly like we do.  Our impatience for the slow, the weak, the old, the smelly.  In a word:  ourselves.  As we hear in the cry of John the Baptist:  “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).  Making room for Christ is radically counter-cultural.  It means practicing humility in a world that values fame; it means sacrifice in a world that craves “more” of everything.  Christ in our hearts sees Christ in our world, in every person, every relationship, every moment.
When we make room for Christ we crowd out intolerance.  We push aside envy.  We uproot prejudice and we plant the seeds of hope and charity, of justice and faith.  That “making room” is how we participate in the saving work of Christ, as members of His Body.  Each Advent we’re reminded of how much God loves us and wants to be in relationship with us.  He left heaven to be with us and live in our hearts.  If we’ll only make room for Him.
“We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.” –G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

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