Summary: The measure of space that we offer to God and to our fellowhumans is the measure of space that is sanctified in us.
The Advent is over. Tonight we celebrate the birth of the messiah. The gospel, Luke 2.1-14, narrates the account of the birth of our messiah. Circumstances bring Mary, who is pregnant, with her husband to Bethlehem, a city which had no more room to offer to its visitors. There our child is born in a manger and the mother wrapped the child with narrow strips of cloth. The lack of room in the city, the manger and the swaddling clothes suggest the great limitation of space imposed on this family by the situation. It suggests the limitations of space for someone to be born and to grow. It speaks of the difficulties of finding a home in the midst of a world that is rationally organised by humans. The Census stands for a rational, political organisation.
Once, on a winternight, a stranger knocked at the door of an old man in a singleroom appartment. The old man woke up from his sleep and opened the door. The stranger begged him for a little space to pass the night, so that he does not freeze in the cold outside. The old man had only one bed. He had nothing to offer on which the stranger could sleep. The stranger said, “It is enough, only if you give me a little space on the floor!” The old man allowed that and went to bed. After a while he heard another knock. Another traveller wanted a little space for the night. The old man showed him the situation. The second traveller wanted only a little space like the first one. He was also allowed and all three went to sleep. The old man on his bed and the others on the floor. After a while he heard a knock again. There was absolutely no space more in the room now. The old man said, “Adjust yourselves and manage the little space we have!” There were many more who came and knocked in this night. He brought all of them in, inspite of all his incoveniences, uncertainties and risks. He could give all of them space in his room, because he had plenty of space in his heart!!!
When there is sufficient space for others in our hearts, we also find the sufficient space for them outside. We see the external world through ourselves. We see our external situations through our own inner space. The difficulties that we see outside are the difficulties that we have within ourselves. What we have or do not have within ourselves is what we see outside. There is no other way. We have no escape from this human predicament. Therefore, the circumstances of Jesus’ birth reflect and mirror our own inner conditions. Since there was no room in the hearts of men, they could not provide a room for God to be born, who is the creator of all the space in the universe! The manner of his brith hits hard on the focus of his mission, i.e., to teach men to create sufficient space within them for one another. That is a matter of hospitality -- to be hospitable to strangers and the needy. So that within our space, others find a home. Within our space, others are born anew and they grow up according to God’s will. The mission of God was to create in us such a space. And He Himself could dwell in this space along with His people.
Among the poems of Rabindranath Tagore titled Gitanjali, there is one [No.50] that tells the story of a beggar. As he went begging from door to door, his king appeared in his golden chariot before him. He thought that the king would give him great riches and his evil days were over. So he stood waiting for alms from the king. The chariot stopped where he stood. The king looked at him and came down to him from his chariot. The beggar felt the luck of his life. Then, all of a sudden, the king held out his hands to the beggar and asked: “What do you have that you could offer me?” The beggar thought, “What a kingly jest that the king begs to a beggar!” Confused and undecided, he opened his begging bag and took out a small grain and gave it to the king. But, to his great surprise and enlightenment, when he emptied his bag at the end of the day, he saw a small grain of gold among the heap. He remembered, that was what he had offered to the king. And he wept bitterly and wished, if he only had the heart to give all that he had!!!
That is the mystery of christmas. The measure that we give is the measure according to which God increases our life. God knocks at the door of our inner space – and our fellowhumans do the same – to find a home in us in order to be born anew and to grow to the fullness of life. The measure of space that we offer God and our fellowhumans is the measure of space that is sanctified in us. It is the same with love, generosity, forgiveness, friendship – with all human qualities and values. Then our life becomes a new city of Bethlehem, which has plenty of space for strangers and the needy. Our life then becomes the crib, which has no spacial boundaries. The love that binds the humans with one another becomes the holy temple where God – Immanuel – would like to dwell. Happy Christmas!