[This is not Fr. James McTavish’s homily for today Sunday December 27 but for the midnight Mass last Christmas. Isa 9:1-6 / Ps 96:1-2a, 2b-3, 11-12, 13 / Titus 2:11-14 / Luke 2:1-14]
Today we celebrate Christmas – God entering our world in the form of a little child: Jesus, born in a manger. Do you think this was only 2000 years ago? No way! Jesus wants to enter our world, our lives this Christmas again. How do you feel, knowing that Jesus wants to be born in your life today, this Christmas? Perhaps the best thing we can do is look again at this familiar tale that we hear every year and ask, “Who am I in this story? Who does Jesus want me to be in this story?”
Firstly let us look at Mary and Joseph and see how they were in the face of all that happened to them. Imagine them sitting at home in Nazareth; Mary is very pregnant, preparing herself to give birth to her first child. Surely she is very nervous, trying to prepare everything for the big day and the room and clothes for the new baby. And what about Joseph – he was probably very nervous too, thinking about how to take care of his young wife and the special child she was about to bear. Then what happened? A knock on the door or a proclamation: everyone must return to their home town for a census. What a hassle!! I am sure that for Mary and Joseph the timing could not be much worse.
But what do they do? They travel to Bethlehem, to Joseph’s home town, about 80 miles, with no buses or trains in those days. And as they were very poor, it’s quite possible they did not even have a donkey to ride. Perhaps a generous neighbor lent them one. But we see the humble acceptance and obedience of Mary and Joseph, believing that this is the will of God. And when they get to Bethlehem, what happens? No room at the inn!! Once again we see the poverty of the Holy Family because for sure if they had money a room would be available, even if the innkeeper had to throw another family out… Joseph could not even find a place to stay with his own relatives, despite the fact that he had a pregnant wife with him. So they have to make do with a stable. And still we see this gentle acceptance and obedience on the part of Joseph and Mary, believing that somehow God would make things happen the way he wanted to, no matter how inappropriate the circumstances seem to be.
What about us? Do we make the best of our circumstances? Do we see obedience as a way of living God’s life? Or do we complain when someone asks us to do something a bit hard or different?
Now let us focus on Jesus – what do we see here? The God of the whole universe, the creator of all things, seen and unseen comes to earth. And how does he choose to make this happen? He is born to poor parents, in a stable, laid in a manger, as the Christmas carol tells us, “No crib for a bed.” This is God – why does he choose to be born here? He could be born anywhere, in a palace, in a big castle, in comfort and security. Why choose such poverty, such difficult circumstances? Perhaps he is showing us what is really important. Perhaps he is showing us that all we really need is love. Perhaps he is showing us that if we want to we can be at home wherever we find ourselves as long as we have the love of God.
Maybe all the things that we consider so important, so vital to our happiness – our iPod, our flat screen TV, our new car – are not so important after all. Can we be free enough to be ourselves no matter where we are? Or are we still attached to our image, our things, our home?
And what about the innkeeper – well in fact, he is not specifically mentioned in the story but we can assume that if there was no room at the inn, there must be an innkeeper who is telling Mary and Joseph this! We can make excuses for the innkeeper of course, I am sure he did not recognize who Mary and Joseph were, how important the baby that was to be born that night was. How many times does Jesus come to us and find that there is no room in our schedule, that we are too busy to give him time in prayer? Many times Jesus is knocking at the doors of our lives (Revelation 3:20), wanting to enter and make our lives so much more than they are, but we do not respond, because we are too busy, there is no room. If we do not open the door, Jesus cannot enter, he cannot make our lives all they could be. Jesus is knocking on the door of our life today. It is our choice as to whether we open our lives to him or not. Is there no room in our life for Jesus? Are we willing to remove some things so that he can fit? Or do we see him as someone who is not important enough for us to make changes in our lives?
And finally, let us try something different: let us look at the manger. The manger is available to Jesus to enter. It may not look like an appropriate place for Jesus to be. It may be too smelly, too exposed, too messy. But Jesus wants to enter there, he wants to be born there. In the same way, he wants to enter our lives today too. He does not care if our life is messy, smelly, seemingly unworthy, too sinful, for him to be there. He does not want to wait for us to fix our lives up, to make them perfect or “appropriate” for him to enter. He wants to be with us now, as we are, where we are. He wants to take our lives and make them better simply by his presence.
Perhaps we can ask ourselves, “Do I see myself or my life as being unworthy of God – too sinful, too messy, not ready to welcome him in? Do I realise that Jesus wants to enter into my life, into all the mess right now, the way it is? Will I make myself available to him?”
Let us celebrate today, rejoice, that we have such a beautiful story of how God wants to be with us. Let us humbly accept that our lives are not perfect but that this is precisely where God wants to enter. Let us recognise his knock and open the door to welcome him joyfully.
And may we not doubt that our lives will always be better when he is with us. Amen.