Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Heart for Baby Jesus

My friend Teresa tipped me off on an absolutely wonderful book, Divine Intimacy, with daily meditations on growing closer to God. I have to share yesterday’s reflection:

When creating us, God loved us so much that He made us to His own image and likeness; when redeeming us, He loved us so much that He made Himself to our image! Christmas is pre-eminently the feast of love—the love which was revealed … in the lovableness of a little Child, our God, stretching out His arms to make us understand that He loves us….

          …When we see Jesus, the eternal Word, become a child for us, and from the very first moment of His earthly life, gladly taking on all our miseries, even to the point of having nothing but a manger for a cradle, with a little hay for bedding, and poor swaddling clothes for covering… Oh, we can no longer doubt His love. God loves us! Jesus loves us! … One who so believes in infinite love will know how to give itself to Him without measure: to give itself totally.[1]

          This reminded me of a reflection from last week, inspired by these words from Mother Teresa:

Christ comes at Christmas as a little child, small, helpless, so much in need of all that love can give.  Are you ready to receive him? His parents looked for a simple dwelling place for his birth, but there was none. If they came to you in search of a home, would they choose your heart and all that it holds?[2]

This got me thinking about the state of my heart. Then I started imagining my heart—rather than a potential home—as a potential manger for the Baby Jesus. How would He find it? Cool, with hard, lumpy parts?

It became a goal for each day to intensify my efforts to spend Advent well, doing things that would make my heart soft and warm, a more comfortable place for Jesus to nestle. Meditation on God’s amazing love warms up my heart; dying to myself softens the hard lumps.

          I’m sure Mary carefully arranged the straw in the original manger and made it as comfy and warm as possible. Making sacrifices is like giving her more straw to pad the manger and make it softer and warmer.

          Of course, this is not just a goal for Advent. It continues now during the Christmas season, which lasts through January 9 this year.[3] Indeed, it is a lifelong goal.

[1] Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, Divine Intimacy, meditation for Dec. 26, emphasis added.
[2] Mother Teresa, Thirsting for God (Beacon Publishing), meditation for Dec. 21.
[3] The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. It’s usually celebrated on a Sunday, except when the Feast of Epiphany falls on January 7 or 8.

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