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December 11th, 2013by Joe Ollier

When I was 16 my extended family took a trip to Arizona to visit one of my mom’s cousins, who was celebrating 25 years as a missionary on the Navajo Indian Reservation.  On the way, we stopped at a place called Canyon de Chelly, which some folks call the Little Grand Canyon.  It’s about a 2 mile hike to the bottom, and a few of us decided to make the trek.  By about 1/2 way down all but three of us had bailed and gone back up to the canyon rim.  And at that point, my last two companions wanted to go back as well.  So I went on alone.

sanctuaryAnd what I saw and experienced that day has stayed with me ever since.  Not long after I had struck out on my own, I looked across and saw the ruins of dwellings built into the rock walls.  I couldn’t see any way to get to them, either up or down, and yet centuries before people had lived here in the middle of a sheer rock wall.  Somehow, people had made a home in a place that seemed impossible to live in.  Families had turned a hard, desolate place into a warm, safe home.  A sanctuary.  Children had been born here and had played here.   Meals were eaten, and bed time stories told in the middle of this forbidding rock.

In the ancient Middle East, it was not uncommon for folks to use caves as stables for their livestock, and some historians think that Jesus was actually born in such a cave, hewn in the side of a rocky hill.

It seems to me that Jesus is much like those ancient Native Americans.  He can come to dwell in even the most forbidding of places and the hardest of hearts.  He can bring comfort and joy to even the most impossible people.  He can turn desolate places into safe havens.  All he needs is an opening.  So the question is, will I let Jesus carve himself into me?  Am I willing to let him break the stone of my heart?  Am I ready for him to dwell within me – to make me a sanctuary? When I can answer “Yes” to those questions, then it shall be Christmas.

Joe Ollier

Joe Ollier is the Coordinator of Youth Ministry at Ascension Parish in Kettering where he and his family are. He has 20 years experience in youth ministry and a Masters Degree in Theological Studies from the University of Dayton.