When I was growing up in Burlington, MA, we went to St. Margaret’s Parish on Winn St., and every December I loved to see the Nativity scene set up just outside the entrance to the church. The scene was enclosed behind glass, and on those cold winter days, we would stop and look at the familiar scene: the bare stable, the weary Joseph and Mary, the newborn Christ child, the Inn where there was no room, all of Bethlehem in the background, and in the night sky, a lone star shining.
We would stop for a while and linger at the scene, and in the background we could hear the sound of traffic on Winn St., people arriving for mass, all in the cold December air. As a child growing up, there was a kind of magical, otherworldly look to that Nativity scene, all lit up in the darkness, a kind of glimpse into this faraway, holy event. It appealed to the imagination.
Sometimes, it seems, religious education can get caught up in memorizing facts, and can lose sight that at its heart, our faith is based on the inbreaking of God (“incarnation”= God becomes flesh, one of us) into human history. It’s a story about amazement. It’s the story of Mary, who was visited by an angel and who said yes to bearing the Christ child. It’s a story that tells us that there was “no room in the Inn” for the birth of this child, and so the child was born in a stable, in an out-of-the-way place. Maybe that fact in itself is telling – in our world that is filled with so much conflict and violence, it often seems that the holy is hard to find in the midst of it all, off the scene, easily missed.
Someone once said that the word for “inn” in the gospel could also mean “heart.” Looked at that way, we can read it as God is looking for a place to be born in our hearts this Christmas. In the midst of the busyness of everything, can we find a way to create that space?
In this beautiful season of Christmas, a blessed Christmas to all!