In today’s reading, Maggi talks about the stable, the kataluma being “not a freezing wooden shed at the bottom of the garden but a warm dry shelter within the family home”. A space apart from the bustle of the house itself, yet part of it. A place of peace and (relative) quiet, but not the place anyone expected.
What has always struck me about the stable is that it represents a particular kind of hospitality: the readiness to make room for a guest even when there isn’t really any room to be had. There’s something about that sharing of limited resources which is more obvious at Christmas. The bedroom shared with one too many distant relatives. One more place laid at the table for the guest you weren’t expecting.
In our family, it’s chairs. I remember as a child eating Christmas dinner at my Granny’s big round dining table, with people on every conceivable kind of chair, from folding garden chairs to the swivel chair from the study. My cousin and I often used to share the piano stool, and I remember once ending up sitting on a coffee table. But however many people turned up, there was always something to sit on, it just might not be what you were expecting. Everyone would move round a bit, elbow room would become more limited, and someone would end up with the fork with the wonky handle. But somehow the extra person always fitted in.
But there has to be an intentionality in that making room. A determination to create space even when it’s inconvenient and untidy. And that’s how it is with our spiritual lives too, it seems to me. We need to create space for Jesus, space to reflect, space to be still with God, space to recognise Christ in the everyday, even (perhaps especially) when to do so is inconvenient and costly and messy.