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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

December 27, 2023: Make your heart into a manger.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023: Make your heart into a manger.

Reading I Is 9:1-6 

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.

For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.

A reflection from Jim Fredericks:

Merry Christmas to you all!


On this Christmas Eve, 2023, the world is, without a doubt, a very troubled place. Horrible things are being done to families in different parts of the world. I don’t need to remind you of this.


I perfectly understand that some of you are losing hope in the world, in our country, in our politics – and indeed: losing hope in one another.


And so, let me tell you a story about hope – a story that is about you. 


This week, we found a place to live for a family that is seeking shelter from the cold. Saint Leo’s did this.


It’s a family of refugees. They are fleeing drug gangs and corruption. It’s a mom and a dad and their two little boys. None of them speak English. The mom can clean houses and the dad can wash dishes and bus tables or prune vines or whatever.


This week, Saint Leo’s found this family a place to live.


It’s a remodeled garage. There’s a full bathroom, but no kitchen. No problem. We got them a microwave and a hot plate. We’ll take them up to the Church Mouse next week once mom and dad figure out what they need to set up housekeeping for the two boys.


And this remodeled garage is heated! There was no heat in the boarding house where they were staying.


The boys need to go to school. I don’t worry about the younger child. He turned eight last week. He will soak up English like a dry sponge.


I worry more about the older boy. He’s fourteen. School will be harder for him. He’s frightened – I would be too. So, last week, I spoke with one of our high school kids who is preparing for confirmation.


She’s a firecracker! She just won an award: “Student of the

Year” (or something) at Sonoma High. She’s a proud Dragon… but she’s also one of us here at Saint Leo’s as well.


So I asked her, “Do you speak Spanish?,” knowing that should would be fluent.


Yes, Father,

I speak Spanish at home with my parents.”


“Great,” I said, “I need to tell you about a young fellow who will be starting at Sonoma High in January…”


Then, before I’m even finished explaining the situation, our girl says,


Father: I got it. He’s going to need some friends.

We can even set up a group that can translate for him in class.


That’s right: we’ve got a place for this boy to stay. And now, he just needs a few friends.


In the Christmas story, when Quirinius was governor of Syria, Ceasar Augustus decreed that there would be a census of the whole world.


So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.


And there was no place for them to stay. There was no room in the inn for this family.


This whole world, I think at times, is just one big, demented inn, for whom there is no room for little people.


But there, in Bethlehem, someone had a barn and this is where Mary and Joseph took shelter.


While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son.


Here at Saint Leo’s, we are not perfect. We have our good days and our not-so-good days. But we do have people with renovated garages. We’ve got the Saint Vincent de Paul Society and people eager to support it. We’ve got the Church Mouse too.


And I assure you: we’ve got wonderful young people in our youth group, who are completely bilingual and preparing for Confirmation and eager to serve.


If that doesn’t give you hope, I don’t know what to tell you!


And most importantly of all, we have this new family – refugees from a failed state – a demented inn where there was no room for them. A family fleeing corruption and drug gangs. They have come knocking on our door asking for shelter.


So here is my advice to you for this Christmas and for this coming New Year:


Make your heart into a manger.


A manger is a trough for laying down hay to feed the animals in the barn. It doesn’t seem very suitable for a newborn baby… but that was all Mary and Joseph had.


Make your heart into a manger.


The Santo Nino is the King of Kings and the Prince of Peace. Don’t try to make it into a throne – just a manger.

That will be more than enough.


I promise you, the Blessed Virgin and Saint Joseph will come knocking on your door asking for shelter.


Don’t worry: we have the garage. Now all we need is a manger – and that is what you can do.


Make your heart into a manger.


Don’t lose hope: It’s Christmas … and there’s a mom and a dad who have found shelter for their two little boys. Now all they need is a manger.


Merry Christmas to you all!


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