candles in snow and star light

Photos by iStock.

I actually “need a little Christmas” this time of year. The daylight is short. Sometimes it seems like it’s 10 p.m. when it’s only just seven in the evening! COVID is still a reality and causes hesitation. And the long lines when trying to get a gift for someone on my list. Then the traffic. It leaves me sometimes, well, Grinchy. I love the lines from that spiritual classic from a doctor named Seuss: “How the Grinch hated Christmas. The whole Christmas season! Now please don’t ask exactly the reason. It could be that his head wasn’t screwed on just right. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. But I think the most likely reason of all was that his heart was two sizes too small.”

That’s why I need a LOT of Christmas. It’s a season where we re-experience God’s abundance, God’s overwhelming love, that God so loved the world as to take on our human flesh in Jesus. There’s some part of unconditional love that is always surprising to me. Maybe that’s why I stay up to watch the Nativity portion on the app “The Chosen” (a modern show recapturing the life of Jesus). It is stark in depicting the cold of the stable, the animal droppings, and the absolute love of Mary and Joseph for the baby she is carrying. I love to look down into a crib scene at this time of year. I’m lucky enough to have a live manger scene that my office overlooks, thanks to the efforts of Tim Sucher. I can get lost just staring at it. It’s always amazing to me that God would go to any extreme to dwell among us. I need Christmas to be reminded of the reality of God’s abundance and to re-experience it in my own life.

One of the saddest lines in the Christmas story is “for there was no room for them in the inn.” Yet, I know that my own heart can shrink when I think that there is not enough to go around. As a country, our hearts shrink when we can’t welcome an unborn baby or a person seeking asylum. Our resources are scarce, we say. Or, we don’t ensure adequate housing for people who can’t do it themselves, or care for people who have mental illness or struggle with addiction. Yes, then our hearts get two sizes too small. Yes, then we might tell Christ in His distressing disguises that there is no room in the inn. It is still the saddest line.

That’s why we all need a little Christmas. To experience that our lives were turned upside down by this one holy night. That we didn’t have to earn God’s love; it was just given, and is given. That no matter what kind of condition our heart is in now, God’s mercy and love surround us. God will not tolerate any distance, and so is born this day in our stable. Our model and Mother, Mary, shows us how to make some room in the inn of our heart. Like Mary, we say, “Let it be done unto me, according to your word.” Let every heart prepare Him room, and heaven and nature will sing.

(Fr. Mark Soehner is the Provincial Minister of the Province of St. John the Baptist.)

outdoor nativity

The manger in the courtyard of St. Francis Seraph Church. Photo by Sr. Eileen Connelly, OSU

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