“Your house looks terrible,” my friend sighed, exasperated. “You’ve got no lights on the upper windows, the garland is crooked, and you don’t even have a wreath on the door.”
“That reindeer plaque counts as a wreath,” I retorted. Shaking his head, my friend pointed to the car and said, “Home Depot. Now.”
Admittedly, my exterior Christmas decorations weren’t exactly Pinterest material. Between work and school, I’d barely had time to remove the dead summer plants from my porch and put up a few icicle lights. I’d meant to buy a wreath, but there weren’t many stores in the center lane of the interstate during rush hour. And the Scrooge in me rebelled at holiday heroes like my friend, who’d even hung wreaths on his basement and garage doors.
“You have to understand,” he lectured patiently. “Every door is an entrance for the Christmas spirit.”
I rolled my eyes, but I began to reflect on how important doors become to us at this time of year.
We decorate our house doors, our office doors, our church doors. We keep our business doors unlocked later than normal to welcome harried shoppers, while making sure we lock our car doors so thieves won’t steal our purchases.
We wink at the thought of Santa Claus bypassing the front door as he slides down the chimney into our living rooms.
As Advent unfolds, we speak of opening the doors of our hearts, welcoming Christ more deeply into what chambers therein we are willing to unlatch.
And at Mass during the night of Christmas, we hear of doors that were seemingly closed to a peasant couple, struggling through a noisy, crowded village in search of shelter. A government census had forced them to travel almost a hundred miles to register in his ancestral town. The timing couldn’t have been more inconvenient: she was about to give birth.
The infant knocked with growing insistence against the door of her womb, straining to enter this world. When at last he did, his mother “laid him in a manger, because there was no room at the inn” (Luke 2:7). And so the newborn Christ opened the door of this world with a tiny, wrinkled hand that was quickly bound in swaddling cloth.
Biblical scholars disagree as to whether Bethlehem’s villagers refused Mary and Joseph lodging; they point to imprecise translations of key words, romanticized preaching and ignorance of the cultural norms of Jesus’ time. It is possible that the Lord was actually born in a poor family’s home, a cave, which would have included a manger for the household’s livestock.
Still, it wouldn’t be long before doors began to close against him. Religious authorities, rulers, countrymen, even family members and close friends shut their hearts and minds to his words, scandalized by his radical love and humility. A prison door closed on him, and after his torture and execution, the stone of a tomb.
That last door was destroyed, never to be rebuilt, never to be relocked — unless we harden our hearts and shut our eyes to so magnificent a portal.
Even today, Christ “stands at the door and (knocks)” (Revelation 3:20), waiting for us to open to him. At times he taps softly, seeking us between our scattered thoughts; at other moments — often our most difficult — he strikes with hands bruised by fevered longing.
May he find us hastening to unlock and fling wide every door unto him, this Christmas and always.
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