Children’s Christmas pageants portraying Joseph and Mary’s search for a place to stay as they prepare for the birth of Jesus have wrapped up in our diocese’s parishes. The costumes made of bathrobes, sheets and cardboard angel’s wings have been tucked into plastic storage bins. Our attention focuses now on the miraculous birth of our Christian faith, manifest in an infant in a manger. There was no room at the inn, we’ve been told. That’s why Jesus lay in a manger and not a baby’s bed in a cozy inn.
There was no room at the inn …
What if the inn isn’t a place? What if it’s a state of mind, a place in our hearts? How does that change who we are and what we do? Do we begin to see that the inn keeper isn’t some nameless guy from ancient history; that the innkeeper is each of us, followers of Christ? That our very being is the inn?
There was no room at the inn …
How do we open ourselves to be inns of hope, faith, joy and peace to all kinds of people who experience this Christmas time with a range of emotions? We know the reason for the season, but life-changing events influence how we observe this sacred time. Expressing joy comes easier when we’re welcoming a new child or grandchild into our lives or celebrating a promotion at work or a graduation. Simply getting through the holidays may be the goal of those mourning the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, dealing with serious illness or alienation.
Making room at the inn …
• Put God first. A priest of our diocese, Father Guillermo Trevino, observes in his column this week that “When we put Our Lord Jesus Christ first, many graces come as a result … I’ve never been happier in my life and I feel it is because of putting God first … I can personally attest that my love for my family, my parishioners and others has never been greater since I put God first.”
• Pray, attend Mass and receive the sacraments. Another priest of our diocese, Father Jake Greiner, knows that prayer is essential to opening himself to God’s will. In a column on preparing for the New Year, he observes: “Our spiritual lives will help us to accept those aspects of our lives that are out of our control so that we have more courage, energy, patience and peace in addressing those realities that are in our control.”
• Listen with the ears of your heart. Someone who has recently lost a loved one may feel like sharing stories about that person. Ask them to do so and make time to listen. The longing to share stories isn’t limited to the grieving. Some people in their twilight years might yearn to pass on the stories they’ve collected over a lifetime. Welcome their stories. Consider visiting a nursing home or getting involved in jail/prison ministry or pen pal ministry. Your listening ears are welcome in those sometimes forgotten places, too. Take a cue from Sister Dolores Schuh, CHM, of Davenport. She’s been corresponding weekly for four years with a man on death row in a North Carolina prison. She also sends a birthday card and Christmas card to each of the 146 men on death row at that prison.
• Practice patience. An interviewee for a story, asked what she prays for, began by saying what she doesn’t pray for: patience, because God will test it. But the world we live in today would benefit greatly from the patience of each of us. We can start by engaging in respectful dialogue with people whose viewpoints differ from ours — even in our own families.
Let’s contemplate and act on our role as innkeepers this Christmas season and see where it takes us during this Extraordinary Year of Mercy.