One of the details familiar to us about the Christmas story is the fact that Jesus was born in a manger because there was no room for the Holy Family at the inn of Bethlehem.
This was probably a logistical reality instead of a prejudiced offense toward the couple. A census was taking place and it required everyone to return to their hometowns to be counted.
It must have been a busy time for the motels of the day and it probably was not the desire of the “Bethlehem Motor Lodge” to kick Joseph and Mary out on the street.
The absence of space at the inn is an important detail to keep in mind as we pass through Christmas into the rest of the year, because like the innkeepers at Bethlehem, it is very tempting not to make room at the inn of our hearts for the King who was born in a manger.
It is so easy to look at the horror witnessed recently in Connecticut, or at the similar but equally atrocious school slaying in China, or at the unrelenting gang violence in Chicago and ask, ‘Where is God? How does He permit this senselessness?’
The answer is that God lies at the inn of every heart who will let Him in.
Many words will be written about why such senseless acts of terror happen. Some will call for the removal of all implements of destruction from our lives. That way no more violence can be exacted. Some will say more education is needed to give the vulnerable a better chance at success because prosperity will stop such desperate acts.
The message of our society is that prosperity makes one happy. Yet the troubled young man in Connecticut lived in a large, upscale home and had two parents who earned good salaries.
The message of Christmas is that a little space for what is holy changes everything.
One cannot help but wonder if those who choose such unspeakable forms of expression have made any effort at all to create some space for the good Lord in their hearts. Ours is not to judge except to say that there comes a point at which some actions cannot be tolerated or explained.
On the other side, we can think of countless examples of those who have made room for the holy and noble in their lives.
The young teacher who put herself between the offender and her students in Connecticut is but one example of someone who clearly had opened her heart enough to peer into divine compassion and act upon it.
The God who created the universe has shown that compassion to us. The God that cannot be contained is born under very limited and humble circumstances; in the manger of a common stable. The world has never been the same.
If we are not willing to allow God into our hearts to mold us more into His image, then all of the Masses we attend and prayers we utter are motions.
It only takes a little room in our hearts for our lives, and thereby our world, to change along with it.
May our hearts be transformed and opened this Dec. 25 just like the bread and wine are when they become the Body and Blood of our Savior at each Christ-Mass.
FATHER BRYAN BABICK is the vicar for Divine Worship and the Sacraments for the Diocese of Charleston. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.