In Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph were members of the homeless population.
I have always had a home. I have never wondered where I will sleep tonight or the next night or next week. How many people in the history of the world can say that? Not Mary and Joseph.
I value the bed I sleep in. Often, when I climb between the sheets, I thank God for the simple cleanliness of it because I cannot imagine waking up to rodents crawling over my feet or insects in my hair.
To be homeless can mean to live in someone else’s house for awhile. Or their stable. There might be a sleeping spot on the couch, or the porch, or in the manger. This kind of stress cannot be good for self-esteem. It must feel humiliating to say, “I’m not sure when I will have a job or when I will have enough money to move out on my own again.” It is a feeling of worthlessness that must be hard to overcome. Self-esteem is not always the things we think about ourselves, sometimes it is the things we think others think about us.
Every week at St. Vincent de Paul I meet homeless people. Sometimes they are staying at the shelter, sometimes they sleep on friend’s couches, and a few of them sleep in cars or under bridges. We try to help them get enough money together for rent, or we make some phone calls to find a bed in a shelter, or if all else fails, we give them warm gloves and a blanket. We also try to reassure them that they are beloved children of God. They often struggle to believe this.
On that cold December night did Mary and Joseph truly believe that they were the beloved children of God? It must have been tough for them to see it in the moment. And it must have been tough for all of us innkeepers with the “no-vacancy” signs to see it, too.