CHRISTMAS is traditionally a time where we tend to focus on buying gifts, writing Christmas cards and preparing food for a feast spent with loved ones.
Yet as I reflect on Christmas 2017, I am challenged to ask myself how this Christmas season is going to be different.
What is going to be different in me this year, as I prepare my heart to receive the greatest gift ever, Jesus born anew in my life?
Christmas provides us with a wonderful opportunity to look not so much at the material gifts we give, but the opportunity we have each and every day to share the gift of ourselves with others.
In simple ways, we have many opportunities to touch the lives of others – through a letter, a visit, a phone call, or a conversation – something that helps warm and transform someone else’s life.
We might never really know the impact that a smile or an unexpected email might make on someone who is struggling.
If we look to the example of Jesus, we can see that He rarely gave material things to people.
Instead, He gave his personal presence and gifts such as self-belief, peace of mind, compassion, forgiveness, dignity and justice.
These are all things that any one of us can offer to others.
Yet in the modern-day Christmas rush, sharing our presence rather than presents can seem like a difficult task. Sometimes we become like the innkeeper, indirectly saying that “we have no room” to open our hearts to share the gift of who we are with those who might need us.
If we dare to take a moment this Christmas season to reflect, we are invited to consider if our hearts and our lives are in fact too full for Christ to find a place.
To have Christ in our lives, to put him back into the centre of Christmas, involves creating time for him, time for those in need, time for hospitality, time for celebration, time for prayer.
It also involves creating time for the unexpected people in need whom we might encounter. Jesus frequently allowed his plans to be disturbed and disrupted by the needs of others.
Perhaps Jesus is seeking to disturb our plans, to knock at the door of our hearts and bring unexpected gifts this year.
More than 2000 years ago, the innkeeper missed his opportunity to welcome the stranger.
Will we miss the opportunity too?
Undeniably, the young Mary and Joseph, strangers looking for a place of refuge, still walk our streets.
Itinerant strangers, taking many different forms, still knock at our doors.
The itinerant strangers of 2017 might be the elderly, or those suffering from mental illness.
They might be refugees looking for a new beginning or the homeless in need of a safe place.
They might be victims of domestic violence or survivors of sexual abuse.
Or they might simply be the many people who feel unwelcome in our churches for whatever reason.
Whatever appearance those in need have in our society, one thing remains constant. Just as more than 2000 years ago, Mary and Joseph were in need of an open door, our cities are full of people who just need us to listen to them and show love as our first gift to the poor.
Without doubt, this Christmas we will have opportunities to create some room in the inn of our hearts, if only we look hard enough.
Who are the strangers knocking at the door of your heart this Christmas, seeking a room at your inn?
As we celebrate Christmas 2017, let us have the courage to listen for the ways that Jesus desires to knock at the door of our hearts, calling us to something more.
May we always have open hearts and open doors for the vulnerable and marginalised in our society.
May we continually find room in our inn to welcome the poor, offering gifts of peace, hope and love.
By Canossian Sister Mel Dwyer