Dear Friends in Christ,
“[Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Lk. 2:7).
In considering what I’d say in this Christmas message to you, my thoughts kept coming back to this passage from St. Luke’s Gospel, about how “there was no room for them in the inn.” It is a great paradox that the Creator himself, the Lord of the whole universe, when he came among us found no welcome — that there was “no room,” for him. In the Prologue to his Gospel, St. John puts it this way: “He came to his own, but his own received him not” (Jn. 1:11).
So, in my message, I’d like to reflect with you on this paradox of there being “no room” for the Son of God when he came to save us and offer some comments on what it means for our own Christian living.
The puzzle of the Lord of all Creation not finding room for himself in Bethlehem is one aspect of the seeming paradox of the Incarnation: that the Word became flesh, that God became man without ceasing to be God, that the all-powerful God became a little baby. What the liturgies of the Christmas cycle call the “divine condescension” explains God the Son coming into his creation and finding no place. The root cause for this paradox is God’s mercy, his pouring out of himself in love for us sinners.
This boundless love of God-made-man is manifest in all of the Gospel paradoxes: in the Virgin being a Mother, in the Son of Man “having no place to lay his head,” in the Kingdom of God being established by forgiveness and not force, in the humiliation of Christ the King before Pontius Pilate, in death being destroyed by death, in the Bread of Angels becoming our pilgrim food in the Holy Eucharist.
For each of us personally this “ecology of paradox” is cashed out in the fact that Jesus Christ, God from God, waits for each of us, poor sinful creatures, to make room for him. He wants to enter into every part of our lives, into every aspect of who we are and into every moment of what we do and experience. However, he will only do that to the extent to which we invite him. In the boundless love of his Sacred Heart, he longs to be part of our lives. But in what we might call his “loving discretion,” he does not force himself upon us; he waits for us to respond to his invitation “to make room for him.”
Therefore, as your pastor I invite you, as part of your Christmas, to consider what parts of your life you have been sequestering from Jesus. Where have you put up a sort of “no room here — stay out” sign? Perhaps it’s in your aspirations for success, your plans for the future; perhaps it’s in the hurts you’ve experienced, the grudges you’ve nourished; perhaps it’s in the faults you’ve grown used to, so much so that not only have you stopped trying to change but you’ve even “made friends” with those habitual sins; perhaps it’s at work, in your community, in your home, in your family, even in your marriage.
We all have places in our lives where we don’t want Jesus to be present. That could feel at first like a threat to us, since it’s a summons to change, a call to abandon ourselves in total love to Christ, who has first loved us with total abandon. Be brave! Let Christ in. Submit everything to him. Yes, he will shake things up; but what he does, he does in love and for our flourishing. It’s not easy to find room for Christ, but having him present is boundless joy; it’s what we were made for and the only thing that will really make us happy.
Looking back on this year, I see lots of ways in which our society seems to want to exclude Christ from our midst. In the Public Square there are more and more “no room here” signs being pasted up. We must all work hard to change that — to preserve a place in our community for the Good News of Christ: about God as our Creator and Father, about the human person, about the sanctity of life from conception until natural death, about marriage and family, begetting children and human sexuality.
The most important place to start in making a place for Christ is in each of our lives. The Son of God took on our human nature so that he could dwell with us. Ask him where he wants to be made more at home in your life. And when he shows you, ask him for the courage to let him in.
And one more thing: when you bring this Christmas prayer to completion, think about who you can invite to invite Jesus into their life. Your spouse? Your children, grandchildren, parents? Your friend? It’s the Year of Faith. For the love of Jesus, tell someone about your faith, how great it is to know Jesus, and be the voice through which Jesus asks “for room.”
Sincerely Yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron
Archbishop of Detroit