Making Room at Christmastime

I am squeezing in one more Advent reflection with just a few hours to go!

I have been thinking about a passage from Dorothy Day, titled “Room for Christ.” It was the reflection in my Advent devotional from December 19th.

She begins her reflection this way: “It is no use saying that we are born two thousand years too late to give room to Christ. Nor will those who live at the end of the world have been born too late. Christ is always with us, always asking for room in our hearts.”

The point, of course, that Day is making, is that Christ comes to us every day, all around us, in the people we see–and even more, in the people we don’t see [or refuse to see]: “it is with the voice of our contemporaries that he speaks, with the eyes of store clerks, factory workers, and children that he gazes; with the hands of office workers, slum dwellers, and suburban housewives that he gives. It is with the feet of soldiers and tramps that he walks, and with the heart of anyone in need that he longs for shelter.”

And so, Day argues, we can do for him now what those who met him in the flesh did for him then, all those many centuries ago: find room for him. Those who met Jesus “in the days of his flesh” cooked meals for him, welcomed him into their homes, gave him hospitality and friendship, and walked with him and stood by him–not perfectly, and not always, of course, but still–they made room. They dropped their nets, they left their homes, they opened their hearts. Day’s point is that in welcoming Christ, they made room in their lives for the unexpected and the inconvenient. And in so doing, they made up for the neglect, the shunning, the scorning, and the sneering of those who rejected him.

As I was reading Day’s reflection, it wasn’t those things that struck me as much as this example: “The wise men did it; their journey across the world made up for those who refused to stir one hand’s breadth from the routine of their lives to go to Christ.” That image convicted me, because the reality is, I love my routine. My days are organized, scheduled; I’m in control, and I don’t like to be disrupted by the unexpected and the inconvenient. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but often, people get in the way of my to-do list, and I find that annoying, a nuisance.

Of course, at the same time, I tell myself that I would happily allow myself to be interrupted by Christ, and that I would joyfully make room for him in my busy life, my busy schedule. But, the reality isn’t quite as easy at that; if I can’t or won’t make room for those whom Christ puts before me–whomever that may be on any given day, then the reality is that I can’t or won’t make room for Christ, either. It’s impossible to love and serve Christ without loving and serving those strangers and neighbors who bear Christ’s face today, right now. I know this, of course, but I conveniently forget it every time that reality is bothersome or disruptive. Maybe later, I think; maybe tomorrow.

But, today, on the very eve of Christ’s coming, the kairos moment is impossible to ignore: there isn’t later, there is only now. And is that really different than any other day, any other time, with any other person?

Day says, “If that is the way they gave hospitality to Christ [helping him, serving him], then certainly it is the way it should still be given. Not for the sake of humanity. Not because it might be Christ who stays with us, comes to see us, takes up our time. Not because these people remind us of Christ….but because they are Christ, asking us to find room for him, exactly as he did at the first Christmas.”

Whatever it looks like this year, as we all “make room” tonight and tomorrow for the Christ child–the gift and the miracle of the incarnation–I pray that the space we make for Christ might remain, even after the tree gets tossed, and the lights are put away. In that “space” where Christ dwells, we find that there is room for all.

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