The Greatest Gift for the Christ Child is Your Heart

“Come in, but please excuse the mess.” How often we greet visitors with these words, hoping they’ll forgive the clutter and the dust bunnies sneaking across the floor.

Still, when it’s a really close friend, we don’t apologize, because we know the disarray doesn’t matter to them. After all, these friends have seen us in our comfy pajamas with big furry slippers.

They saw us after that terrible haircut that made us want to hide — and they’ve loved us through it all.

We know we can open our hearts to our friends, and tell them things that might embarrass us or bring us to tears — and they won’t turn away.

Sometimes, though, we try to hide our spiritual disarray from God, fearful that if he sees the dusty places and chaotic corners, he might reject us.

And then comes Christmas, which reminds us we don’t have to be perfect.

God could have arranged for his son’s birth to occur in a perfect and posh setting. The Christ Child could’ve been born in a gleaming, majestic palace and then wrapped in silken garments. He could’ve had parents who were well-situated in society.

Instead, he was born to poor people in a messy, cold stable, where he was surrounded by bleating and braying beasts. His first visitors were scruffy shepherds, who were low on the social ladder.

In her poem about his birth, “In the Bleak Midwinter,”

Christina Rossetti writes that “a breastful of milk” and “a mangerful of hay” were enough to please Jesus. Although angels and archangels were gathered there, his mother worshiped the beloved child with something so simple — a kiss.

As an adult, Jesus warned his friends about hardening their hearts against God, and perhaps when we hear these words at church, we think, “I’d never do that to God.”

Still, the other day, I had lunch with someone for the first time, and knew the fellow wasn’t a believer. As the food was served, I felt a strong desire to say a blessing, but I squelched it, because of a cowardly fear of imposing my beliefs on him. Later, I realized I’d hardened my heart against an impulse from the Holy Spirit.

Scripture describes God saying, “Behold, I stand at the door knocking.”

Some folks think God wants to enter a heart that is perfect, but remember that Peter said to Christ, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.”

This admission didn’t stop Christ from choosing him as head of the church. So we needn’t make excuses about the dust and the broken places in our lives, because God knows about them — and still knocks.

In her poem, Rossetti asks the poignant question, “What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb. If I were a wise man, I would do my part.”

She decides the best present she can bestow on the Christ Child is her heart.

On Christmas, we can welcome the Christ Child into the secret rooms we’ve closed to everyone else. We can give him the greatest gift of all, which is an invitation to live in our hearts forever. Merry Christmas, dear readers!

Lorraine Murray also writes for The Georgia Bulletin, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Her email address is lorrainevmurray@yahoo.com.

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