“There was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7) when Jesus was born on the first Christmas. Mary and Joseph went off to a stable or a cave, off by themselves, off alone. No space was reserved for Jesus when he came. There was no hospitality, no welcome. There was severe overcrowding in and around Bethlehem, and the local residents and visitors alike were unwilling or unable to receive Jesus when he was born.
The lack of room for Jesus is an age-old problem. There still is severe overcrowding. Our minds are overcrowded with news and information, our hearts are overcrowded with innumerable concerns, our schedules are overcrowded with things to do, the malls are overcrowded with shoppers, the highways are overcrowded with traffic, the airwaves are overcrowded with noise, electronic devices are overcrowded with messages. With so much overcrowding, we run the risk of not having enough room in our personal “inn” to receive Jesus this Christmas.
If we want to have the best Christmas ever, the most important thing of all is to make room in our hearts to receive Jesus. No matter how busy we may be, no matter how much hustle and bustle may exist, no matter how many distractions and mental preoccupations may swirl about our minds, we need to set aside time and space to welcome Emmanuel, our Savior.
Spiritual balance is crucial. It is beneficial to go off alone to meditate and pray, to converse with our Messiah and Lord in silence and solitude, to ponder the profound mystery of the Incarnation, to offer hospitality and welcome to Jesus. Moments of private prayer are an urgent necessity.
Liturgical, communal prayer is also indispensable. We should plan to attend Mass on Christmas Eve, at midnight, or on Christmas day. The Mass is a beautiful way to welcome Jesus into our hearts, to receive his word in Scripture and his body and blood in the Eucharist. Jesus is the true gift of Christmas.
There are many other prayerful ways to welcome Jesus into the “inn” of our hearts. Some excellent options would be to read the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel and prayerfully reflect upon his infancy narrative; say the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary; pray in front of a manger or crib scene at home or at church; listen to hymns, sacred music and spiritual Christmas carols; and pray together at the dinner table or at other times.
If we receive Jesus into our hearts, we are to become what we receive. Then it is not so much our life, but Christ living within us (see Galatians 2:20). What we have received as gift we are to freely share as gift (see 1 Peter 4:10).
After making space for Jesus, then it is time to make space for others. The greatest gift we can offer anyone is to bring Jesus to them, to be like the Blessed Mother, to be Christ-bearers, to give the present of Christ’s presence.
Father Michael Van Sloun is pastor of St. Stephen in Anoka.