DECEMBER 20, 2009
On Saturday evenings, I preside at a mass in the small town of Lyons, about 20 miles North of Boulder. Streets and sidewalks all around the church are being torn up and repaved. Right now the torn up part is all around us. It is very difficult to get to the front steps of the church. Tractors and barriers are everywhere. We walk in the street since there are no sidewalks at this point.
This weekend was the worst yet. When I arrived at the church, in the dark, I began to whine and blame, which is my initial response to a difficult situation. Are not my wants the center of attention for the town council? But then God intervened with a thought for me to ponder. In the gospel, Mary travels a very difficult and rocky route to reach her cousin Elizabeth. Mary and Joseph have to travel pretty much the same route to get from Nazareth to Bethlehem, outside Jerusalem. They have to go to an inconvenient stable, in the night, with no paved path. Jesus is born in the night, in a very inconvenient situation for Mary and Joseph. But it is not inconvenient for the shepherds, who are already living outdoors at night on cold ground. For them, the stable is nearby and freely accessible for them.
If it is inconvenient and difficult for me to make my way to the Lyons Church, maybe I am following in the footsteps of Mary and Joseph. The Lyons church becomes the stable I struggle to get into, so that I can enjoy the new birth of my Savior. Maybe the difficulty of getting "there" is the point. What will I put up with to receive God into my life? When I whine, it means I will not put up with much. For sure, I will not bear any cross in this mood!
But there is more. Jesus is born is a cold, dark stable. He does not come where there is light and merriment. He comes to an isolated and out of the way place, off from the mainstream of daily human activity. At this time of year, are not there some hearts that feel cold and dark and isolated from the light and merriment around them? This feeling may come from childhood upbringing where Christmas was not much celebrated. Maybe someone has lost a loved one recently, or has the memory of someone dying at this time in a Christmas past. Maybe someone simply has little faith.
These are the situations in which Jesus especially comes and dwells at this time of year. The animals who witnessed his birth had no faith and maybe even less interest. This is the wonder and miracle of God coming into the world. God comes where least expected or invited. Bethlehem was a small no place town. When you feel like a small nobody, God is coming especially to you. When you feel your heart to be cold, dark and lonely at this time of year, God is dwelling within you. God is especially a surprising and often uninvited presence in the world and in each one of us. Scrooge said, "Humbug" but this did not prevent Love from entering into his life.
You may not welcome, expect or even invite Christ into your life, but that does not control the Presence. We never earn God, but we sure can be surprised by the Incarnation in our hearts.