“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.” – Luke 2:6-7
I often wonder how Joseph must have felt when he received the news that there was “no place” for him and his pregnant wife from the innkeeper. Having travelled so many hours, in probably harsh and treacherous conditions, Joseph must have experienced immense disappointment, frustration and anger. Joseph possibily even panicked. Did he have a backup plan? He and his wife could not possibily stay on the streets right? And how about pregnant Mary? Surely traveling in her physical state must have been awfully tiring and painful. I wonder whether she cried out in helplessness upon hearing that there was “no place” for her and her husband. I wonder whether Joseph and Mary felt hopelessness and despair. Is it not interesting, then, to briefly ponder about how the Advent story – the often overly-cherry, merry-making and consumerist-laden narrative – began as a tale of rejection? On hindsight, would the innkeeper have created space and made room for Jesus, Mary and Joseph, should he have realised that he was actually rejecting the Holy Family?
Indeed, I am the innkeeper and the inn represents my heart – a heart overly preoccupied with endless worries and concerns, a heart that has no space for the Holy Family. I have been guilty of rejecting the Holy Family countless times in my life. Under the pretense of business and inordinate attachments to ambition, personal reputation and careerism, I have compulsively filled up all the rooms of my heart to the brim and in doing so, I have really “no place for them”. You have to excuse me, Joseph. I have no place for you and your family because I have a heart filled with ego, self-serving intentions and worldly desires. I have to say no to you, Mary, for I have no time to entertain the pious devotions of Rosaries and Novenas. And to You, unborn Jesus, son of God, savior of the world and redeemer of my soul, go away and spring to life in another place, in a less crowded space. The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary has therefore no place in my heart.
Pondering on the role of the innkeeper in the Advent narrative surfaces a few points of reflection for me in this season leading up to Christmas: who in my life have I rejected and turned away? Who at my workplace or at my school, for example, am I intentionally or unintentionally oblivious to? Chapter 53 of the Rule of Benedict from the Order of St. Benedict (OSB) states that “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for He himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Indeed, who are we callled to welcome into our lives? Have we instead shunned and rejected these people? How have I failed to recognise the face of love and the call to create space in my life? After all, we must first be able to recognise Jesus, Mary and Joseph before we invite them into our lives.
Jesus reminds us in Matthew 25:13 to “keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” Indeed, you and I both do not know when the “hour” might be, when the time Jesus, Mary and Joseph actually knocks on the doors of our heart. Therefore, as we continue to savour this advent season of merry-making, thanksgiving, loving and forgiving, may we come to recognise and actualise the Holy Family’s invitation to create space in our hearts. May we look deeper and begin to declutter all that takes up unnecessary space in our hearts – concerns and worries that bring us further away from God. Let us also pray for the grace of (self-)awareness so that we may all be able to recognise Jesus, Mary and Joseph in our daily lives. May we grow in love and become the innkeeper who has a room for the Holy Family in this Christmas season.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, assist me in my last agony.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, may I breathe forth my soul in peace with you.
Rising under the protection of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and armed with the sign of the holy cross: in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the
© 2017 Christ Centered Conversations/Christopher Chok