By Bishop Keith L. Ackerman, SSC
So often we can read the historical elements of the Holy Scriptures in such a way that we determine who the heroes and villains are. For example, I suspect that most people would not have a high regard for those in Bethlehem who could offer no room for the Holy Family. We have an image of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph going from Inn to Inn, with Joseph knocking on many doors, pleading for a place for his pregnant wife to deliver her child, as Mary sat on a donkey writhing in pain.
Later we learn that one Innkeeper offered a Stable. So very often when we think of Stables and Mangers we see the lovely ones depicted in pictures, in our homes, and in our churches. While they may well be shown as having rough wood, the reality is that in Bethlehem wood was a rare commodity. In fact the wood used for the Temple in Jerusalem, which is located about 5 miles from Bethlehem, was imported from Lebanon. Olive wood, as lovely as it is for carved Manger figures, is not typically large enough to cut planks that could be used for building.
The greater reality may well be that Jesus was born in a cave in a stone cold manger. There were two types of mangers in animal caves: the rectangular type for the water and the rounded type for the grain. In all probability Jesus, who would follow in his foster father’s footsteps as a “tekton” (according to the Greek) would work with stone, and in the end, would be placed in a stone cave, on a stone slab. But Jesus burst forth from both caves. In the former, to be a light to Gentiles and a glory to Israel, and in the latter to redeem the world.
Today Jesus knocks at the door of our hearts. Sometimes our stables are so filled with anger, hostility, fear, doubt, grudges and pain that there simply is no room for Jesus. Even in the Church today, there are good people who are so angry with the Bride of Christ that they leave no room for the Bridegroom. Jesus seeks to be born in our hearts again, but we need to make room for him. In life there simply are many things over which we have no control, and yet we function, all too often, as if we are in control. As we celebrate this Christmas Season, let us hand over those things which we simply cannot control, and make room for Jesus so that He can be in control.