Do You Have Room? 2019-12-24 Christmas Fr. Roberto
Homily for Christmas
Fr. Roberto Corral, OP
St. Dominic’s Church, Los Angeles, CA
December 25, 2019
Title: Do You Have Room?
Theme: Do you have room in your heart and life for Jesus?
Gospel: Luke 2:1-14
Isn’t this a beautiful Nativity scene we have here in our church? It is one of the nicest I have ever seen! How many of you have a Nativity scene in your home? If you don’t, I encourage you to set one up. Do you know who set up the first Nativity scene in history? It was St. Francis of Assisi in the 1200’s! And we Christians have been putting up Nativity scenes ever since. You may not know this, but earlier this month Pope Francis wrote a letter about the importance of Nativity scenes. He says that Nativity scenes are not just Christmas decorations; they are actually a way to preach the gospel, a way for us to understand our faith and to understand God.
So, tonight (today) I would like to explain to you three ways in which our Nativity scenes can enlighten us and challenge us to grow in our faith. The first thing a Nativity scene does is to remind us where Jesus was not born. Our Gospel tonight said, there was no room for Mary, Joseph and Jesus in the inn in Bethlehem, so he was not born there. Therefore, the Nativity scene reminds us that Jesus cannot enter where there is not room for him; he can only “be born,” i.e., he can only enter, where there is room for him. Jesus will never force himself upon us; he will enter our lives only if we allow him to. This challenges us to ask ourselves: “Is there room for Jesus in my heart and in my life?” Or am I like the inn at Bethlehem: too crowded, too full of myself, of my needs and wants, too focused on my agenda, too busy with other more important things to make room for Jesus?
This is a very important question for those of us here tonight who do not come to church that often. But it is just as important a challenge for those of us who come to Mass every week or even every day because we can all shut Jesus out of our lives in different ways, right? So what is it that keeps us from making more room and time for Jesus in our lives? No matter where we are in our spiritual journey, Jesus wants to enter into our hearts and lives in a fuller, deeper way, but he can only do that if we make room for him.
The second thing the Nativity scene does is to remind us where Jesus was born. Our Gospel tonight said that Mary laid Jesus in a manger. A manger is a feeding trough for animals, so Jesus was probably born in a stable or a cave where animals were kept. I dare say that most of us romanticize and sanitize that reality, but just think about being born where animals are kept. Think cows, sheep, goats and donkeys. Think mud, dung, filth and awful smells. So our Nativity scene is teaching us that Jesus is not afraid of the dirtiness and messiness of our lives. In other words, we do not have to be squeaky clean, holy or have our lives all-together for Jesus to come to us. He is with us right in the middle of the dirtiness and messiness of our lives. In fact, the Bible and our Catholic history are filled with stories of messy, dirty, sinful people who opened their hearts to Jesus and became some of his greatest followers. So, there is hope for all of us!
The third lesson the Nativity scene teaches us is perhaps the most important and certainly the most challenging: our God is a God of surprises. We tend to want God to fit into our boxes and our expectations, but God is forever surprising us. The fact that God was born as a human being to begin with – what a surprise! The fact that he was born in poverty and in filth and not in a palace or at least in comfort and cleanliness – what a surprise! The fact that he came to love us forgive us and die for us and not to punish us – what a surprise! My brothers and sisters, you and I will never be able to figure God out. God is way beyond our understanding. One of my favorite sayings is that God draws straight with crooked lines. In other words, God doesn’t always follow our rules, our sense of timing or jump through our hoops. God does what he wants, when he wants, how he wants. And he always gets it right.
So, on this Christmas (Eve/Day/Night) can you and I make more room for Jesus in our hearts and in our lives? Can we believe that Jesus loves us in spite of the dumb mistakes we’ve made or how many times we have fallen or how un-together our life is? Can we believe that Jesus is with us in the messiness of our lives: that he is with us in the midst of our pain, our doubts and our struggles? And because our God is a God of surprises who draws straight with crooked lines, can we accept life on God’s terms and not ours? Can we let go of our need to be in control and surrender our lives to him?
If we choose to do this, some people will call us stupid, crazy, fanatics or out of it. But if we choose to believe all this and choose to surrender to our surprising God, we will be the happiest people on earth, and we will be able to say to the whole world again and again with a deep sense of joy in our hearts: Merry Christmas!
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