Christmas Day Reflection
Here is a reflection I wrote for the Notre Dame Alumni Association's Daily Gospel Reflection, located at faith.nd.edu.
Gospel: The Nativity of the Lord
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered.
Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.
He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
During the summer after my first year at Notre Dame, I participated in a summer service project, serving at a homeless shelter in downtown Denver. While many of the residents there had checked into the shelter for a determined period of time, one area of the building was a large room where the "overflow" guests stayed. These were people who simply needed shelter for the night, possibly because of the weather or the transient nature of their lives at the moment. Each night, the staff would count people at lights-out, making sure there was sufficient room for everyone. Some nights, people faced the same plight as the Holy Family—turned away due to insufficient space.
Today's Christmas Gospel, complete with the details of a very inconveniently timed census and an overcrowded inn, caused me to remember my time in Denver. It is not always clear who counts in our society today and how we make room for others in our lives. Examples race through my mind: a peacefully and miraculously developing baby in the womb, seen only by the ultrasound machine; the sun-worn migrant worker, fighting weariness and hardship to feed his family; the disheveled addict, sleeping in a heap of belongings under an overpass; the weary streetwalker, trafficked and trapped in a silent hell; the frightened victims of an endless war whose ghostly faces show the weight of their worry. Who counts, and how can we make room?
Of course, Jesus comes to show us that everyone counts—from the simple shepherd to the learned scholar—and in God’s house, there is room for everyone who desires a place. What a powerful message contained in a poor, humble baby. This holy and divine child, who takes on all our loneliness, sin, and death, arrives to save us and give us lasting hope. Jesus does not come to redeem only a few. He comes for all, communicating God’s lasting desire to incorporate each of us in the final tally of those eternally happy in the many rooms of heaven.
O come, let us adore him!