So I want to begin by echoing our welcome at the beginning of Mass: a welcome to all of you here in the Church – those joining us remotely in the gym – and all of you joining us remotely at home.
We’ve been through a lot this year – so may you just be able to relax a little this Christmas knowing that the Prince of Peace, the Wonder-Counselor: our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who comes to us today ------ has everything under control!
So did we do the work of Advent?
--Did we stay watchful and alert?
--Did we prepare the way for the Lord?
--Have we testified to the light?
--And have we spoken our YES to God as did Mary ---
All to make room in our hearts and lives for Jesus?
If we did, then we can join the ranks of Wally Purling. . .
Who is Wally Purling you may ask --
Well for years now – whenever Christmas pageants are talked about in a certain town in the Midwest, someone is sure to mention the name of
Wally’s performance in one annual production of the Nativity play has slipped into the realm of legend.
But the old timers in the audience that night never tire of recalling exactly what happened.
Wally was 9 years old that year – and in the 2nd grade, although he should have been in the 4th. Most people in town knew that he had difficulty keeping up.
Wally was big and clumsy, slow in movement and in mind. Still, Wally was well liked by the other children in his class, all of whom were smaller than he was.
Wally was always a helpful boy, a willing and smiling one, and the natural protector of the underdog.
Wally hoped to be shepherd with a flute in the Christmas pageant that year, but the play’s director, Miss Lombardi, assigned him to a more important role – or so she told him.
After all, she reasoned, the Innkeepr did not have many lines to say, and Wally’s size would make his refusal of lodging to Joseph even more forceful.
And so it happened that the usual large audience gathered for the town’s Yuletide extravaganza of the sheep and the shepherds, the beards, and crowns, and halos and wings – and a whole stage-full of squirming bodies and squeaky voices.
No one on stage or off was more caught up in the magic of the night than Wally Purling.
They said later that he stood in the wings and watched the performance with such fascination that from time to time, Miss Lombardi had to make sure he did not wander on stage before his time.
BUT then the time did come when Joseph appeared, slowly and tenderly guiding Mary to the door of the Inn.
Joseph knocked hard on the wooden door set into the painted backdrop. And Wally the Innkeeper was there --- waiting for that knock.
“What do you want?” Wally said, swinging the door open.
“We seek lodging,” said a weary Joseph.
“Well go seek it elsewhere,” Wally said as he looked straight ahead speaking vigorously. “For there is no room in my Inn.”
“Sir,” Joseph said, “we have asked everywhere in vain. We have traveled far and are very tired.”
“There is NO ROOM in this Inn for you,” Wally said, properly stern.
“Please, good innkeeper,” Joseph continued. “My wife, Mary, is about to have a baby and she needs a place to rest. Surely you must have some small corner of some small room for her. She is so tired.”
Now for the first time – Wally the innkeeper relaxed his stiff stance and looked down at Mary. And then there was a long pause, long enough to make the audience a bit tense with anxiety.
“No, be gone.” – whispered Miss Lombardi from off stage – trying to get Wally to say his next line.
“NO!,” Wally repeated automatically. “Be Gone!” But the words were not said very convincingly.
Joseph sadly placed his arm around Mary, and Mary laid her head upon her husband’s shoulder and the two of them started to leave.
The innkeeper, however, did not close the door and retreat within his warm inn.
No, Wally Purling just stood there in the doorway, watching the sad couple walk away.
His mouth was open, and his brow creased with concern, and his eyes were filling unmistakenly ----with tears.
And suddenly this Christmas pageant became different from all others.
“Don’t go, Joseph!!” Wally cried out. “Bring Mary back.”
And Wally’s face grew into a bright smile. And he said with great enthusiasm: “You can have my room!”
Some people in town thought the pageant had been ruined. Yet there were others who considered it the most Christmas of all Christmas pageants they had ever seen!!
For that is the message of Christmas – our Savior still comes today – and he is looking for a place to stay.
Each of us is the Innkeeper of our own hearts and lives. We control who is welcome and who is turned away.
This Christmas --- Jesus is knocking at the door of our hearts. Do we welcome him – or do we send him away?
And let’s remember --- it is never too late to do the work of Advent – may all of us make room for Christ not just today – but every day of our lives. And then we will really know --- that we have truly celebrated Christmas.
O Come let us adore Him. O Come let us adore Him. O come let us adore Him – Christ the Lord!
Moments in time...