Born in a barn, surrounded by love

For 24 December 2016, Christmas Eve, based on Luke 2:1–14

Merry Christmas
I am Scott Steinkerchner, editor of the Word. This Christmas marks our tenth anniversary bringing you Dominican preaching from around the world.
Ten years is a lot of great preaching and it is all online. I have been listening to our Christmas homilies over the years, which you can find by clicking the “Christmas” tag in this post.
We still have many of our original preachers, and Dave Delich still puts up the these homilies every day. So I thank him, and I thank our great preachers, and I thank you, our listeners for joining us.

I am choosing the Gospel from Midnight Mass, Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus with no room at the Inn (Luke 2:1–14)

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven,and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

Imagine being there… in Bethlehem all those years ago. I picture myself as a traveling handyman named Aaron. I am out here on the road because I am the second son of a family with little means. I one thought about getting married… to Salomé, but a man named Andrew wanted her hand as well, and he had a house, and well, they are very happy together now, and I live on the road fixing roofs and walls and such. I came to Bethlehem because with all of the people traveling for the census I knew there would be lots of work, people wanting to fill up every nook and crevice, and that means fixing all those roofs. What I didn’t count on is so many people that there was no place for me. I was inquiring at this one inn and the innkeeper was in a heated argument with a man who clearly felt entitled to a room, though there were no more. He cursed the innkeeper and cursed Ceasar for making us all travel and left in a huff muttering “we’ll see about this.” and I guess we will. I am not sure God takes these curses lightly.

I decided to sneak in with the animals in the barn out back, something I have done many times in my years on the road. It was going to be a cold night, and anything was better than sleeping out in the open. I found a corner that was dry and clean enough, where I thought no one would see me but the donkeys, I gathered a little straw and curled up for some sleep. But then someone came with a candle. It was the innkeeper, and he was appologizing and telling these folks that this was the best he could do. I sank deeper into the shadows so as not to be seen.

When he had left I went over and introduced myself. It was a lovely couple from Nazareth, Joseph and Mary, but she was great with child and looked like she was about to give birth at any moment. I gave them my little corner but there was to be no sleeping that night because that child decided to come. Joseph was a carpenter, not a farmer, and it was clear that he was not prepared for this or any birth and had no idea what to do, so I went off to see if I could find a midwife, or someone who could help. I woke up the innkeeper, who muttered “of course she is!” and he woke up his wife who went and woke up the town’s midwife, but by the time we got back, something strange had happened. There was a glow coming from the barn, and as we entered we saw that it was coming from angels. Angels, real angels! They were everywhere, hovering in the rafters, peeking out from under the donkey, and they were all looking at this little miracle. The child had come, that quickly, but Mary looked fine. She was feeding the little boy, who was contented and happy as could be.

We were all amazed, and I just fell on my knees and prayed. I mean, what else do you do in a barn full of angels looking at this miraculous birth. And I remember thanking God that there was no room at the inn, and I asked God to bless Ceasar for calling for this silly census that brought us all to this place at this moment.

Looking back now, 2000 years later, we often wonder why Jesus was born in such poverty, but I think it highlights what he had, which was everything he needed. He was born rich in love, surrounded by family and more, warm in his mother’s arms.

We sometimes miss the miracle of Christmas because we are still arguing with the innkeeper, still trying to find the perfect place to stay, or the perfect gift, or to make the perfect meal, when all we really need to do is to just stop and look around at miracles that are everywhere. Jesus will be born somewhere this Christmas. To witness this miracle, we don’t need to be Mary or Joseph, we just need to slow down and open our eyes and our hearts, and see the miracles happening around us. Perhaps it is in a friend who is finally willing to forgive, or a generous sacrifice by a stranger that paves the way for a homeless family to come in off the streets, or in the moment you realize that you already have all the love you need, and you stop and smile deep within.

Scripture passage from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright 1989, 1993, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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About Scott Steinkerchner, O.P.

Scott is the general editor of this site and lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. He is a friar of St. Albert the Great province in the United States and preaches for an internatiopnal charity, Food For the Poor.