It was Christmas Eve at the famed Riverside Church in New York City, and with William Sloan Coffin, Jr. scheduled to preach, the pews were packed. The Christmas Pageant was on and had come to the point where the innkeeper was to say that there was no room at the inn for Joseph and Mary pregnant with Jesus.
The part seemed perfect for Tim, an earnest youth of the congregation who has Down Syndrome. Only one line to memorize and he had practiced it again and again with his parents and with the pageant director. He seemed to have mastered it.
So there Tim stood at the altar, a bathrobe over his clothes, as Mary and Joseph made their way down the center aisle. They approached him, said their lines, and waited for his reply. “There’s no room at the inn,” he boomed out, just as rehearsed.
But then, as Mary and Joseph turned to travel further, Tim suddenly yelled, “Wait!” They turned back startled. “You can stay at my house,” he called.
Bill Coffin strode to the pulpit, said “Amen,” and sat down.
It was, as Marian Edelman says, the best sermon he never preached.
“You can stay at my house.” What does it mean to us? How has this story, this question, formed you and how you live you life? How has it influenced how you live and how you treat all those who cross your path?
What doors might we open this year to make room in our minds and hearts out should and our spirit to invite the love of the Christ Child into our lives more fully?
What doors might we need to open so that we feel less fearful, less anxious, less upset each day?
What doors might we need to carefully close … perhaps the doors that do not lead us to love, justice, beauty, peace, hope and understanding.
BLESSING BY SR JOYCE RUPP FOR THE MERGING NEW YEAR
Standing at the Gates of the New Year
Waiting on the threshold
Of this new year,
You open the gates
And beckon to us:
Be not wary of what awaits you
As you enter the unknown terrain,
Be not doubtful of your ability
To grow from its joys and sorrows.
For I am with you.
I will be your Guide.
I will be your Protector.
You will never be alone.”
Guardian of this new year,
We set aside our fear, worries, concerns,
We open our lives to mystery, to beauty,
To hospitality, to questions,
To the endless opportunity
Of discovering you in our relationships,
And to all the silent wisps of wonder
That draw us to your heart.
We welcome your unfailing Presence
And walk with hope into this new year.