A friend who lives on the north side of San Antonio is building a park in a south side neighborhood. He found the perfect lot on a street where many residents struggle daily with inadequate incomes, and luxuries like a park are infrequent. His vision was to provide a space where neighborhood residents could just come and sit under the shade trees, eat their lunches on picnic tables, relax around the fire pit with their families during cool weather.
I say it was the perfect lot, but that was hardly the first impression the property elicited when my friend bought it. It was, at the time, overgrown with thick brush and trees; and it had become the neighborhood dumping place for old tires, metal scraps, discarded furniture. It had likely once been the location of a chop shop, so old car parts were strewn about.
John the Baptist came preaching: “Prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight the paths. The valleys will be filled, the mountains will be lowered, the rough ways will be made smooth,” (Luke 3:4-5). And a plot of land will be cleared to make space for a park.
The characters of the Christmas drama were space-makers. Elizabeth and Zechariah made space for a baby to come into their lives when they were well past their child-bearing years. A baby! At their age! (Luke 1:5-20)
Joseph made space to accept a ludicrous explanation for his fiancé’s unexpected and unexplainable pregnancy. Rather than listening to the voices of custom and reason, he picked up the pieces of what must have looked like a destroyed life-plan and trusted the voice of an angel in a dream (Matthew 1:18-24).
Mary, by all accounts a teenage girl from a small town, made space to carry the son of God in her womb even though she was a virgin (Luke 1:26-38). She knew she would be subject to skepticism, ridicule, perhaps ostracism from her family and community. Nevertheless she handed over her life to God, and, as another friend recently pointed out, not just in reluctant obedience but in great joy.
Usually when we say we will make space for God in our lives, we mean we will add Him to our already-overcrowded to-do list. Let’s see, the mall doesn’t open until 10, so perhaps I can spend some time with God on Monday morning at 9. Oh, nope, that’s the day I take cookies to my daughter’s class. Hmm, well hang on, God, and I will work you in when I can.
If God is to enter our lives, we had better have an open space to receive him. If we want to see the seed of hope sprout, we had better clear the land to make space for that to happen, lest the seed wither and die under the rubble of our lives for lack of proper nourishment and attention.
“God asks us to give away everything of ourselves,” says Loretta Ross-Gotta in To Be Virgin. “The gift of greatest efficacy and power that we can offer God and creation is not our skills, gifts, abilities, and possessions. The wise men had their gold, frankincense, and myrrh; Peter and Paul had their preaching. Mary offered only space, love, belief.
“We think we have to make Christmas come,” adds Ross-Gotta, “which is to say we think we have to bring about the redemption of the universe on our own. When all God needs is a willing womb, a place of safety, nourishment, and love.”
“All the world will see salvation,” said John the Baptist.
“See what the Lord has done for me,” said Elizabeth.
“Let it be with me according to your word,” said Mary to the angel.
“I think I will build a park,” said my friend.
Openings all, where God in Christ enters in.
Marjorie George is editor of Reflections magazine and ReflectionsOnline. Reach her at email@example.com.