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January 6, 2007
I suppose everyone in the stable had more or less claimed his or her space by now: the baby in the feed trough, the mother and father nearby, so they could hear him if he cried. A cleanish surface somewhere to change his diapers, and a source of water not too far away in which to wash them. Their belongings stacked in a corner, their food supply out of reach of the animals who were there first, maybe hanging from a rafter in a canvas sling. Sleeping, eating, waiting, all in the same place.

Joseph had to go out now and then -- to get food, maybe, and also to take care of the business that had brought him here. But Mary probably stayed inside with her new baby and their animal roommates. There is a way to get used to just about any surrounding, and I imagine them settling into this one with something approaching comfort.

But I don't imagine it was a good space for entertaining.

Still, three elegant visitors arrive, with luggage, more animals and entourage. There is no place to seat them except on a bale of hay. And there is no stove, so Mary can't offer tea. She may be the mother of the Son of God, but she is also a Middle Eastern woman--you don't welcome people into your home and then feed them nothing. Even if it's not really your home. She cannot have looked up to see them standing in the doorway with a feeling of pure joy. I would imagine her inner response would be something more like Oh, no.

Theirs is not a long visit, however. They have gifts, which they leave--such odd gifts for an infant, but then a lot of things about this event are odd. They behold the baby, gazing at him for a long time. One of them reaches out and lets him grab a bejeweled finger. They don't say much, which is fine because Mary doesn't speak their language anyway.

And then they are on their way. Who do they tell? Did they see what they came to see? What did they do for the rest of their lives? We never hear of them again.

But the spread of the good news has begun. The Holy Family won't be staying in the stable. The news doesn't stay where it is -- it's always on the move. The people into whose lives it brings you may not be people you've chosen, and you can neither predict nor control what they will do with it.

Just about all you can know for sure is that it won't be exactly what you did.
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