|'Adoration of the Shepherds,' Gerard van Honthorst, 1590-1656.|
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Mt 6:6). Will reward you with what? Or rather, with whom, we might ask?
With a sacred moment. An intimate encounter. A healing exchange. A tender embrace. A gift which surpasses all gifts – the Christmas gift himself: the infant Jesus.
For as Jesus was laid to rest in a manger, a feeding trough, within a stable filled with animals; so too Jesus is laid to rest in the heart of every soul who desires Him, even in the face of our own smelly animals – a symbol among many, of our sins and imperfections.
It doesn’t take a sinless heart in order to house the Lord - as much as He loved the sinless heart of His Mother - but only a heart with an opening, a little space, a little manger, with a little straw. There was no room for Him in the inn - because it was filled up. Just as many hearts have room for everyone and everything, other than this infant and His Mother and Joseph. But to make room for this blessed infant, all it takes is a heart with a desire to adore Him. A heart that is humble enough to accept one’s need for Him. A heart that is sorry for the state of one’s soul, but who nonetheless, trusts in His goodness, and offers Him a place to stay. A place for Mary and Joseph too, through a true devotion to them. This is the ultimate means of housing the Infant Christ, for who better than they can tend to this infant?
Where is the stable of Bethlehem today, but in our churches, where our Lord rests in the tabernacles under the guise of bread? Where is the stable of Bethlehem today, but in our very midst, in our own houses, hospitals, and on the streets, where our Lord cries out for our care in our very neighbours?
And where else is the stable of Bethlehem today, but in our very own rooms – literally, on one level, but even more so, within our very souls. That is where the stable is found. Where the infant Jesus, the Word of God made flesh dwells as an infant in need of our love. Our Adoration.
We read in the Gospels that after the angel appeared to the shepherds and revealed to them the glory and place of Jesus’ birth, they said: “Let us go over to Bethlehem to see this thing that has happened…” The Gospel then records that “they went with haste” – they were keen, and eager to see and encounter this child, to behold their Saviour, and to adore Him, pulled as they were by an irresistible force that captivated their hearts and informed them on the deepest possible level: ‘This is no ordinary child, this is God among us who has become an infant; and He wants us to be there. He wants our presence. He wants our company tonight.’
Who on this night (on any night!) can resist to withdraw into one’s room, to shut the door behind one, and there in that secret place, tearing the veil of time and space through a faith that does not see with the eyes, but with the heart that sees with loving belief, pray to the Father of that infant so tender and so mild, with words as simple as the shepherds would have said to Joseph as the Father’s representative: “Show me your son. I have come to adore Him.”
“Ask, and it will be given you” (Lk 11:9). It is without a doubt then. That when you pray tonight, and go into your room a moment from now, and close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” with a sacred moment. An intimate encounter. A healing exchange. A tender embrace. A gift which surpasses all gifts – the Christmas gift himself: the infant Jesus. Who although being the All-Powerful God, has become a helpless babe who yearns to be wrapped in the swaddling cloths of our affections.