Being a community where the Christ child can be raised
“Mary wrapped the babe in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” – Luke 2:7
How many times have we heard these words about no room in the inn and wished it had been different for that holy family? Poor Jesus, Mary and Joseph – all alone with all those animals until finally the angels and shepherds appeared on the scene.
In an event such as this, that has been memorialized in dramatic fashion in story, song and art, it would be wise not to get too hung up on the details, especially given how little is actually said in scripture about all of this. However, for maybe the first time in my life, I encountered a different innkeeper as I reflected on the Christmas scene this year.
It happened as I was making my way through the working document that has just been promulgated to summarize the consultative phase of the Catholic Church’s Synodal Journey 2021-2024. Entitled, Enlarge the space of your tent, the document captures the call from the people of God for a more open and welcoming church/faith community.
And whatever the reference, it suddenly occurred to me that the innkeeper did NOT turn Mary and Joseph away when they arrived in Bethlehem. He enlarged the space of his tent and offered a place for Mary and Joseph to bring the Christ into the world. Albeit, it was a cave or a lower feeding room in the inn for the animals or whatever archeologists have now actually discovered. But no matter, it was a shelter, it was hospitality, it was a loving thing to do.
This, of course, led me to other thoughts about that event. Were Joseph and Mary really alone in that Nativity moment? Even though Joseph had great faith in God and trusted that Jesus was to be the Messiah, he simply was not trained to deliver a baby. Sources say, he would have sought help. And given that there had been no room at the inn, Bethlehem was probably teeming with people, with travelers, with other kinspeople also trying to fulfill the Roman census requirement. Joseph and Mary would have had help.
I need to follow my own advice here and not get too hung up on details – except for this important epiphany – Jesus was born into a community and was welcomed and nurtured by community throughout his life.
We – all of us – need to be that kind of community – a community where a Christ child can be raised.
Just this morning I found on my front porch, “The Soul of Christmas,” in a delivery box from Amazon, a gift from a wonderful friend on the Congregation who wanted to introduce this writer to Thomas Moore, one of her favorite writers.
I did not have to read far to find the ending for this blog. In the first paragraph of the first chapter, Moore writes: “(Jesus) presents a vision of a world rooted in love, community and friendship, and these are the themes of Christmas.”
Let these BE the themes of Christmas this year – love, community and friendship. We will have to enlarge the space of our tent and make room in the inn – both literally and in our hearts – if the world is to be changed again by the coming of the Christ child.
But that is the promise of this season – the Christ child comes – again, always – if we but open wide the doors of our heart and let love, community and friendship be the glad tidings we bring.
Glad tidings of love, community and friendship to you and yours from the Providence Community!