They should have all been clamoring over each other. Innkeepers insisting, perhaps vehemently, that the one seeking a place to rest should find it in their inn. After all this was no ordinary baby about to be born. Their eyes were about to see the salvation of God. It was a singular moment in history. All the innkeepers could have—no they should have—embraced that pregnant woman with her elderly husband, and been honored to host the favored one, whom the Lord was with.
But it didn’t happen. As they looked at that weary couple, all that the innkeepers could see was another ragged example of a humanity they had long ago learned to ignore. That sweet pregnant woman, Mary, was a humble servant of God. She was no princess, except she was so much more. She was the one person in all of history, whom God miraculously chose through whom to be born.
This alone should have made innkeepers and guests alike give up their own room. It is not likely that no one saw or heard Mary and her husband Joseph desperately pleading for some room, any space, to allow their child to be born. Would not even the most base human decency, compel anyone—someone—to help this couple in need?
If they despaired, Mary and Joseph showed no sign of it. They found their home in a stable among the animals. They became again, for a moment in time, that preternatural trinity of man, woman and God.
The angels could not contain their joy. They celebrated the reunion by dancing deliriously between heaven and earth. It was a moment to behold. But precious few bothered.
When the child was born and his mother Mary wrapped him in swaddling cloth, an angel found a ragtag group of shepherds who made haste to see the child: “Don’t be afraid,” the angel said, “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem.”
And so, amidst the noise and bustle of the busy town of Bethlehem, the rest of the world remained eerily silent. Most were indifferent to the peace and good will that suddenly found their way again in the world, while others were hell bent on destroying it all together.
King Herod sought the child too but for different reasons. Murder was on his mind as he proceeded to slaughter thousands of innocent children. Jesus had hardly been born and his love was already being rejected by a world that still remained a stranger in the eyes of its Maker. Perhaps in that moment, uncertainty even took hold of Mary and Joseph. They no doubt would have already begun to sense the loneliness in the eyes of their little child. Even in his infancy, even in rejection, all the Christ-child could do was what he always did. And that is to love.
Christmas is indeed a wonderful time of the year. But not because of anything we celebrate anymore. The Christmas season, like the town of Bethlehem where it all began, is one of noise, business and indifference. Jesus it seems is still nothing more than an inconvenience to the world.
God has willed to be among us, yet there is still no place for him to dwell. So many plastic toys, disposable and illusory, have quickly replaced the peace that has been gifted to us. Love has come to us, but we are still too indifferent to see Him. And Christ remains alone yet another Christmas.
Paul Evdokimov in his wonderful book The Sacrament of Love writes: “All of life, each act, every gesture, even the smile of the human face, must become a hymn of adoration, an offering . One should offer not what one has, but what one is.” Jesus offered what he has but more importantly he offered himself, to us, as a gift. This Christmas will be another mere holiday if we don’t do the same.
John Kapsalis is a graduate of Holy Cross Seminary.