“She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)
How ironic! Jesus experienced rejection even before he was born. There was no room for Jesus in the inn, so Mary and Joseph had to settle for a cave that was used as a stable for animals.
While these circumstances may have served God’s purpose in taking on our humanity in the humblest of settings, you have to wonder what the innkeeper might have done had he known who Mary and Joseph were and what was about to happen.
We should not be too harsh in judging the innkeeper, for how often have we failed to make room for Jesus in our lives? There have been times in my life when I made more room for my career than I did for Jesus. There have been other times, when, like the innkeeper, I did not recognize Jesus in a colleague looking for someone to talk to or the street person looking for help on the streets of New York City. Let me share a story.
When I worked in New York I would sometimes attend daily mass at St. Matthews Catholic Church just a half block east of Grand Central station. Since my train did not arrive until 7:32 and mass started at 7:30, I would always be rushing to get there by the time of the first reading. One day as I was rushing into the church, a man on the church steps asked me to help him, but because I was so programed to get into the church I ran right by him.
As I sat down I thought to myself, “What did I just do?” Someone was asking me to help him and I blew right by him in my haste to get into the church. I was just like the innkeeper. I had no room or time for this guy.
When I went back outside he was leaning over the front bumper of a car, vomiting. “No way,” I thought, and started to walk across the street to my office. But then I turned back and asked if he wanted some breakfast. We went into a little diner next to the church.
His name was Richard. He had been a trumpet player for a band, got fired, started drinking, got rolled, and lost everything. After connecting him up with the Salvation Army, I saw him about a week later. He was all cleaned up with new clothes and had a suitcase. He said he was going to Hartford, Ct., which was his home. I congratulated him and was delighted to see what had happened.
Then a couple of days later, there he was again, all beat up, his clothes torn, looking awful. “Richard, what happened?” I asked. He just looked at me with his hollow eyes and shook his head. I told him to meet me at 10 o’clock, at 43d & Lexington; that I was going to buy him a train ticket to Hartford and put him on the train. I bought him the ticket, went to 43rd and Lexington, but Richard never showed and I never saw him again.
God never ceases to give us opportunities to make room for him through his son, Jesus. He is always inviting us to open the door of our hearts to love, to forgive, to serve — to build his Kingdom on this earth in the daily circumstances of our lives.
Am I making room for Jesus today in how I relate to the people in my life — my spouse, my children, school friends, work colleagues and the stranger for whom there is no room in the inn?