Have We Made Room for Christ in the Inn of Our Hearts?
The time leading up to, and the birth of Christ, is a time full of expectancy, hope, joy, and sorrow. Everything that occurred from the Fall to His birth in a dingy stable was in preparation of our Redemption. The Annunciation turned Eve into Ave and her “no” into a hope and trust filled “let it be done to me according to thy word”. Saint Joseph, a humble carpenter from Nazareth, became the adoptive father of the Son of God and walked the rest of his days in the company of the Immaculata as his wife. It is an awe-inspiring journey that Catholics walk each year in faith, hope, and charity, but it begins in darkness. A darkness that we contemplate throughout the hope filled season of Advent. It is an arduous path that these players, as well as we, are asked to walk. The beginning of the joyous end began when a census was called:
Caesar Augustus, the master bookkeeper of the world, sat in his palace by the Tiber. Before him stretched a map labeled Orbis Terrarum, Imperium Romanum. He was about to issue an order for a census of the world; for all the nations of the civilized world were subject to Rome. There was only one capital in this world: Rome; only one official language: Latin; only one ruler: Caesar. To every outpost, to every satrap and governor, the order went out: every Roman subject must be enrolled in his own city. On the fringe of the Empire, in the little village of Nazareth, soldiers tacked up on walls the order for all citizens to register in towns of their family origin.
Venerable Fulton Sheen, Life of Christ, page 26
It was this order that sent Mary and St. Joseph to Bethlehem for the birth of the Savior of the World. The most powerful man in the world had his part to play, even though he would never consciously know it. He ordered the journey so that Jesus Christ would be born in the city of David. Caesar had no idea that he was fulfilling the will of the Triune God by his decree.
Bethlehem in the land of Judah, you are far from least in the eyes of the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a leader to be the shepherd of my people Israel.
Mary and Joseph began the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem while she was nearly full term. It would have taken days to arrive. It never occurred to them that there would be no room for them, especially in her condition.
Joseph was full of expectancy as he entered the city of his family, and was quite convinced that he would have no difficulty finding lodgings for Mary, particularly on account of her condition. Joseph went from house to house only to find each one crowded. He searched in vain for a place where He, to Whom heaven and earth belonged, might be born. Could it be that the Creator would not find a home in creation? Up a steep hill Joseph climbed to a faint light which swung on a rope across a doorway. This would be the village inn. There above all other places, he would surely find shelter. There was room in the inn for the soldiers of Rome who had brutally subjugated the Jewish people; there was room for the daughters of the rich merchants of the East: there was room for those clothed in soft garments, who lived in the houses of the king; in fact, there was room for anyone who had a coin to give the innkeeper; but there was no room for Him Who came to be the Inn of every homeless heart in the world. When finally, the scrolls of history are completed down to the last words in time, the saddest line of all will be: “There was no room in the inn.”
Sheen, page 27
Have we taken time to consider these words in our own hearts? Do we have room at the inn of our hearts for the infant Jesus who is to be born? Do our lives reflect the dwelling place of God within us? This sad reminder of the denial of Christ by the powers of the world serves as a reminder to each one of us that the world has always denied Christ. It may shock us and break our hearts to look at the barbarism, suffering, and brutality of the world. It cuts us deeply when we are denied because of our love of Christ, but what else can we expect? Our Lord and Savior was denied from the very moment He was to come into the world. “There was no room in the inn” are words that continue down the ages and words we must hold close in the midst our own persecutions.
Out to the hillside to a stable cave, where shepherds sometimes drove their flocks in time of storm, Joseph and Mary went at last for shelter. There, in a place of peace in the lonely abandonment of a cold windswept cave; there, under the floor of the world, He Who is born without a mother in heaven, is born without a father on earth.
So it was that the Savior of all would be born in the darkness of a cave in the depths of the earth He created.
In the filthiest place in the world, a stable, Purity was born. He, Who was later to be slaughtered by men acting as beasts, was born among beasts. He, Who would call Himself the “living Bread descended from Heaven,” was laid in a manger, literally, a place to eat. Centuries before, the Jews had worshipped the golden calf, and the Greeks, the ass. Men bowed down before them as before God. The ox and the ass now were present to make their innocent reparation, bowing down before their God.
Sheen, page 28
Our Lord was born and placed in a manager. He would become our Real Food and Real Drink, so that we could have eternal life. The King of the Universe was born a babe, so that He could feed the starving and enslaved. He was born and placed in the wood of a manager while the wood of the Cross awaited His sacrificial offering as High Priest. He was to die on the wood of a Cross for the sins of men and women. This was His purpose even as he laid in the arms of Mary on that cold night. He would die for the very same men and women who countless times have fallen and gone astray in the pursuit of false idols. The very same idols who humbly stood before the Christ child in the cold darkness of a stark cave set aside for the beasts.
There was no room in the inn, but there was room in the stable. The inn is the gathering place of public opinion, the focal point of the world’s moods, the rendezvous of the worldly, the rallying place of the popular and successful. But the stable is a place for the outcasts, the ignored, the forgotten. The world might have expected the Son of God to be born—if He was to be born at all—in an inn. A stable would be the last place in the world where one would have looked for Him. Divinity is always where one least expects to find it.
In our own lives, where do we expect Christ to be born? To dwell? Do we see Him in the lowly places and seek Him out in the broken, lonely, and forgotten? Are we looking to the world this Christmas season to bring us peace and joy? Do we expect pretty packages decked out in colorful bows to bring us fulfillment? Are we truly opening our hearts to the simple humility and grand condescension of the Christ child sleeping in a manger on a cold winter’s night? These are the questions we should be asking ourselves as we walk these final days of Advent. We must enter into the cold darkness of that cave and accept the only gift we need, Who is the Christ child. We cannot be saved by the world. The only salvation that exists comes from Jesus Christ. For now, we gaze in tenderness and love at Our Savior wrapped in swaddling clothes, while a few short months from now we will stand at the foot of the Cross on Good Friday awaiting the joy of the Resurrection. Pax Christi.
image: John / Flickr