Christ’s Mass or Mission was feeding those hungry for God.
We all know the traditional biblical stories of the birth of Jesus. Wise men come following a star and shepherds come with their sheep. It was a busy time since Caesar Augustus called for a census and people were going to towns or regions of their birth. The hustle and bustle caused the available rooms for rent to be taken. Most likely many people stayed in barns or stables overnight until they could be counted in the census.
Joseph, the carpenter, and Mary, his pregnant wife, found a stable outside the town and it was there that she gave birth to a baby boy, Yeshua, which in Hebrew means to rescue or deliver.
I’m focusing on the fact that Luke says that there was no room for the couple in the town’s Inn and that Jesus was laid in a manger- a long open box or trough from which horses or cattle eat.
This poem might shed some light on Luke’s intention.
“He who has come to men dwells where we cannot tell
nor sight reveal him until the hour has struck
when the small heart does break with a hunger for him;
those who do merit least, those whom no tongue does praise
the first to know him, and on the face of the earth
the poorest village street blossoming for him.” Julia Marks
The Jews were an oppressed people from day one and were “hungering”, longing, indeed expecting a messiah, a savior to deliver them from bondage. Most of us don’t know what that is like unless we are vulnerable due to illness, addiction, abuse, or some other victimization like the racism that results from brown or black skin.
The following reflection might explain another thought.
“Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ comes uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it, because he is out of place in it, and yet he must be in it, his place is with those others for whom there is no room. His place is with those who do not belong, who are rejected by power because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, tortured, exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world. He is mysteriously present in those for whom there seems to be nothing but the world at its worst.” Thomas Merton
After a while Christmas loses its real significance as we get caught up in the frenetic activity of decorating, entertaining, giving, and receiving.
Carpe diem! Seize the day, the opportunity to go deeper into the Christmas story.
Is there room for Jesus in our lives?
I don’t mean the usual prayer, reflections, and worship, rather actual room for Jesus to enter our daily life.
What if we imagine Jesus accompanying us throughout these next few weeks as we prepare for Christmas. Jesus is with us as we decide what to do to celebrate his birthday- after all, it is his birthday, not just another holiday! Ok, so what do we imagine he wants for his birthday?
We’ve heard the gospels, the exhortations, the sermons, the stories of healing, forgiveness, mercy, serving, sharing, loving.
Ah, there it is, the list!
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”;
If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also”;
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged”
“But when you give a banquet, invite the poor.”
“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Then there is the mention of Jesus being laid in a manger or trough. Kind of weird since there were animals in the stable. Most likely, Joseph, being a carpenter, would have gathered some wood for a small cradle.
However, Luke makes it a point to say, “laid him in a manger” because he writes many decades after the death and resurrection of Jesus and wants to stress that Jesus is the “gift that keeps on giving” and ultimately is what we are hungering for.
Yes, Jesus, not his body and blood per se, rather his Way, his Truth, his Life.
Our world has always been hungry for peace, justice, freedom, equality and its people have always hungered for love, compassion, empathy, forgiveness, mercy as well. Especially in these last years of so much conflict.
Jesus nourishes us with all the above if we take the time to listen to his words and implement his message into our lives.
Perhaps this Christmas, coming as it does in the midst of more concern about the Covid virus, we could unwrap the gift that Jesus is and share him and his message with our family and friends and those in need all around our communities and the world.
Let our unwrapping of his gift be the reading each day, of a small portion of either the gospel of Matthew or the gospel of Luke from the beginning to the end. At the conclusion, we can decide which of the many passages that speak to us can be a gift to us or someone else at this time in our world.