Offering Jesus a home in the crib of our heart Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008 -- 3:31 PM

Jesus, God's Word, became flesh in order to ultimately offer us the gift of his heavenly home. In John 3:16, it is stated, "Yes, God so loved the world that God gave us his only Son so that whoever believes in him may not perish, but have Eternal life."

A great Catholic writer wrote that, out of love for us, the mighty hands that created the sun, moon, stars, and planets and hurled them into space became a tiny baby with hands so small that they could not reach up to touch the noses of the sheep and oxen who warmed him with their hayed breath.

Depth of God's love

This is a poetic attempt to describe the depth of God's love for us at Christmas. We Catholics believe that the gift of Jesus' love to us at Christmas is the center of human history.

Jesus was born so that he might redeem us from our sins, teach us how to love as he loved, and make his home in the crib of our hearts now and forever. This is Good News.

However, the bad news is that around Christmas, we hear of homeless persons and others who do not feel at home with God, themselves, or others. The Christmas joy of others may only remind them of a loved one whom they lost.

The empty plate, the empty cup, the empty place at the dinner table makes their home and heart seem empty. Christmas may be their darkest time of the year.

Darkness at Christmas time

Darkness around Christmas has many faces. On December 23, 2003, the parishioners of Immaculate Conception Parish of Barneveld felt depressed because a fire caused heavy damage to their church, their spiritual home. The fire occurred on the day before Christmas Eve.

Just 19 years before this fire, many of the parishioners survived a tornado that killed nine persons, injured 200 others, and annihilated their previous church. It seemed as if the Grinch used this fire to scorch their spirit of Christmas!

St. Bridget of Ridgeway, their sister parish since 1888, graciously invited Immaculate Conception parishioners to celebrate their Christmas Mass at St. Bridget. Unlike the innkeeper of Bethlehem, St. Bridget Parish found room for Jesus in the crib of their hearts on Christmas.

Jesus brings light

The church was crowded with grieving Immaculate Conception parishioners and others who gathered for the Christmas Mass. In my homily, as their pastor, I tried to stress that despite the darkness in our hearts, Jesus came to bring the Easter light of eternal hope.

Later some of them reminded me that with God's help, they had survived the destructive 1984 tornado and with God's grace they could respond equally well to the fire.

The Wisconsin State Journal, TV stations, and local newspapers gave the fire excellent coverage and helped to make the public aware of their pain. Local churches also encouraged Immaculate Conception parishioners in many generous, concrete ways.

God dwelling among us

The Mass was perhaps the most moving Christmas Mass at which I have ever presided. As we listened to the Good News of Jesus' birth, exchanged the sign of peace, and received Jesus in the Eucharist, God seemed so close that we could reach out and touch him.

Despite the darkness caused by the fire, we believed that God had not abandoned us. Emmanuel, Christmased in baby flesh, truly dwelt among us. The Christ Child enkindled our scorched spirits with the light of hope. We believed that we were part of a family who trusted that God would strengthen us in the difficult days ahead. And God did.  

After prayer, reflection, and listening to parishioners, Bishop Robert C. Morlino gave Immaculate Conception Parish permission to repair the church. Since Barneveld is a growing community, I suggested that the parish ask permission to expand the church. Permission was given, with grace.

Bringing us closer to God, others

In a special way that Mass reminded us that Christmas is a graced time when we worship God as a family and celebrate the Good News of the birth of Jesus. At Christmas, we can thank God for the gift of our family or give presents of quality time to them. One person whom I know gives their aged mother a calendar. On the calendar she and her siblings write in visits or phone calls they promise to share with their mother during the year. This helps their good intentions to become flesh.

Mother Teresa said that we are not called to do great things, but little things with great love. We can go caroling, give to the needy, or visit shut-ins.

We can call a lonely person or write the letter we have postponed. We can read Scripture, other spiritual books, or pray for someone for whom no one else seems to pray.

May Christmas Mass bring us closer to God and to each other as it did for Immaculate Conception's parishioners. May we let Christ make his home in the crib of our heart. May we invite Jesus to fill the stocking of our heart with his love and share it not only on Christmas but every day.

Fr. Don Lange is paster emeritus of the Diocese of Madison.