I shared the following reflection with the Keenan Hall community and offer it here to the broader global community as an invitation for reflection.
We’ve done it. We’ve made it to the final weeks of the semester, the end of the liturgical year, and the start of Advent.
Advent and Christmas seem like some far-off fantasy veiled in an ever-increasing variety of alcohol, chocolate, and other themed Advent calendars.
The mystery of God coming alive in a small infant child seems more mythical than Harry Potter and more impossible than Ohio States chances against Michigan.
To imagine an all-power and all-knowing God coming alive in a small, fragile, pooping, screaming, and crying baby is impossibly difficult to conceive.
Moreover, what makes it all the more remarkable is the place – a poor, dirty, stable, in a hostile foreign town.
We have heard the story a million times and sung the songs a million more that we forget the majesty and power behind the message.
Sunday’s scripture posits a future where weapons of war are converted into tools for cultivation, where jealousy, lust, and greed are replaced with inclusion, joy, and compassion.
The irony is that hearing about a time when war, violence, persecution, and oppression are replaced with peace, hope, and love seems so much more impossible than a child being born to a virgin.
Knights, Christ might have been born over 2000 years ago in the little town of Bethlehem, but here today, in the year 2022, we still wait for the promise, reality, and totality of Christ.
The Christ we wait for, is the story of a God who was born into the margins of society, into our unwelcomed, disenfranchised, and broken world.
2000 years ago, there was no room for Christ.
Today, I wonder if the Inn is still over-booked.
Today, I wonder into which margins Christ would be born.
- Would Christ be born with today’s refugees and immigrants, a people who are displaced and living in a hostile land?
- Would Christ be born into the LGBTQ+ community, a people who are often dehumanized, unwelcomed, and frequently experiencing threats of violence and death?
- Would Christ be born with the materially poor, a people who systems of power have disenfranchised?
- Would Christ be born with those struggling with mental illness and depression, a people who feel powerless and empty?
Into which margins would Christ be born today?
The story of God being born into the least powerful, most unassuming infant child who soon faces the challenge of death makes little theological sense.
- Why would an all-powerful God elect to be born into such circumstances?
- Why would God be born into a gross, smelly, disgusting, and chaotic place?
- Why would God be born into a place that we would not choose for ourselves?
Christ was born into such circumstances as an invitation for us so that we, too, might enter into the margins.
On the first floor whiteboard, I have written a rather extensive quote by Thomas Merton from an essay he wrote entitled “The Time of the End Is the Time of No Room,” published in his book, Raids on the Unspeakable. I want to draw your attention to the last portion of the quote, where Merton identifies the world in which Christ is born.
“Into this world, this demented inn,
in which there is absolutely no room for Him at all,
Christ has come uninvited.
But because he cannot be at home in it –
because He is out of place in it,
and yet He must be in it –
His place is with those others who do not belong,
who are rejected by power because they are regarded as weak,
those who are discredited,
who are denied the status of persons, those who are tortured, exterminated.
With those for whom there is no room,
Christ is present in this world.
He is mysteriously present in those for whom
there seems to be nothing but the world at its worst.”
Christ arrived uninvited to our world, born into a willing accepting, poor mother in a town that was not his own. Through the incarnation of Christ, the Word became Flesh, and all creation became alive with the spirit of Christ. Today, 2000 years after the birth of Christ, we now bare Christ’s spirit through our life and are called to embody Christ in our words and deeds.
As we enter into this Advent season and wait for the coming of Christ, I wonder how we might prepare a space for Christ so that He might finally have room.
- Can we imagine a time when we are not greedily dreaming of our Christmas list?
- Can we imagine a time when we are not angrily teasing, poking fun, and gossiping about others but instead spreading peaceful, uplifting support?
- Could we perhaps cultivate spaces where everyone – especially those who, like Christ, are forced into the powerless corners of society – can feel welcomed and included?
There is a quote from Servant of God, Dorothy Day, an American Activist who Pope Francis invoked during his 2015 Congressional Speech and who’s Feast Day would be today (November 29), that I believe articulates well our challenge today:
“I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.”
This Advent, as we wait in hope, how might we begin to love those we love the least?
- In a time of great division, is it possible for the far-right to love the far-left?
- In a time of tension and debate, can we gather for dialogue and communion?
- In a time of anger and war, can we compassionately love and support all people?
Each year, we wait again for the coming of Christ, but perhaps this year might be the last year we wait. Perhaps this year, we will finally make room for Christ to live in our world.
Perhaps this year, we will finally make room for Christ to live in our hearts.
Perhaps this year, we will finally live as Brothers and Sisters in Christ.
Loving God, as we wait in anticipation of your arrival, I pray that we discover your presence in the farthest corners and excluded margins of society. May we learn to love more those we love the least. And may all people experience the loving presence of Christ through the interactions with everyone they meet.