Born in Our Hearts
December 25, 2011
A very devout couple decided to spend Christmas Eve right in the very birthplace of Jesus – Bethlehem. Unfortunately, despite a thorough search of the whole place, they could not find a vacant room for them. Desperate, they tried the most expensive hotel, willing to pay the rate at any cost. The man approached the front desk and heard the now-familiar response: “Sorry, Sir. All rooms are occupied. It’s Christmas Eve, you know.” He offered to pay any amount for a room, but there was none, according to the clerk. Finally, the man told the clerk, “I bet if I told you my name was Joseph, that the woman waiting in the car was called Mary, and that she is pregnant, you’d find us a room.” ”Well,” stammered the clerk, “I– I suppose so.” ”Okay,” said the man. “I guarantee you, they’re not coming tonight, so we’ll take their room.” (Adaptation from M. Ezeogu).
Once again, Christmas is here. We commemorate that great event when the Son of God, conceived in the virginal womb of the Blessed Mother, was born into the world. And so we exclaim, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” Merry Christmas to all!
This is the most awaited feast that we Christians celebrate. There is abundance of color, merriment and joy all around. Yet despite all these exciting events and gatherings, we cannot fail to notice the superficiality and even the emptiness of the celebration for many people. The reason is simple. Like the people of Bethlehem, many of us respond with the same attitude and disposition: “There is no room in our inn.”
Yes, we have room for almost everything associated with Christmas – parties, caroling, dancing, shows, decorations, and many things besides. They fill up not only our calendars but also our minds and hearts during these days, that we have no more room for the newborn Savior. He knocks at the door of our hearts, wanting to enter and be part of our life. Unfortunately, we are already too occupied with the superficial and material concerns and activities.
It is really fortunate that, as Filipinos, we have our traditional nine-day Aguinaldo Masses or Simbang Gabi. It helps us focus our attention on the center of Christmas – the newborn Jesus. We come to dawn Mass for nine days, recognizing that Christmas is the “Mass of Christ.” As Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, “To each and everyone He comes as if He had never come before in His own sweet way, He the Child who is born… Jesus the Savior, He Emmanuel, He, Christ as Christ’s Mass on Christmas!” Indeed, the Eucharist must occupy center place in the celebration of Christmas for, in every Mass, Jesus is born on the altar. In the message of the Blessed Mother given to Fr. Gobbi in the Blue Book, she called the Eucharist as “perennial Nativity.”
Yet, despite this beautiful religious tradition, one may still wonder how genuine is our preparation to welcome the Lord Jesus. Our churches are filled up and overflowing for these nine days of Simbang Gabi. But I could count with my fingers the parishioners who came for Confession. Meister Eckhart once said: “What good is it that Christ was born 2,000 years ago if he is not born now in your heart?” (Living Faith, v. 4, n. 3). And according to Helen Keller, “The only real blind person at Christmas-time is he who has not Christmas in his heart.”
If Christ is born in our heart, it is always possible to celebrate Christmas not only in December, but even everyday. This is what St. Paul of the Cross insisted: “Celebrate the feast of Christmas every day, even every moment in the interior temple of your spirit, remaining like a baby in the bosom of the heavenly Father, where you will be reborn each moment in the Divine Word, Jesus Christ.”
Needless to say, therefore, there is a clear need for sincere and regular examination of conscience and the grace of the sacrament of Confession so that our interior being will be made ready to receive the Lord. This will always lead us to genuine humility, recognizing how unworthy we are for such a great gift. A humble heart is what will help us capture the true spirit of Christmas, for in the Incarnation, God humbled Himself, “being born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:8).
A non-Catholic author, Morton Kelsey, puts it beautifully: “I am very glad Jesus was born in a stable because my soul is very much like a stable filled with strange and unsatisfactory longings, with guilt and animal-like impulses…tormented by anxiety, inadequacy, and pain. If Christ could be born in such a place, He can be born in me also. I am not excluded.”
Indeed, “It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air” (W.T. Ellis). Let me end with this simple yet profound thought on Christmas:
“It’s sharing your gifts, not purchasing gifts;
It’s not wrapping presents, it’s being present and wrapping your arms around the ones you love;
It’s not getting Christmas cards out on time, it’s sending any card, anytime, at the right time;
It’s not having the biggest and best Christmas light display, it’s displaying the Christ light that comes from your heart;
It’s not Santa coming down the chimney, it’s Jesus coming down from heaven and giving us the gift of eternal life.” (Anon)
Let this prayer of Meister Eckhart be ours, too: “Lord, be born in my heart. Come alive in me this Christmas! Amen.”
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Sta. Lucia Parish
JP Rizal Street, Novaliches
Quezon City 1117