Let’s really prepare ourselves well for this Christmas. Let’s clean up our hearts–our interior homes–and put everything in order once and for all. Let’s clean out all the dust and dirt from the forgotten corners, or the ones that we’d like to forget. So that when Jesus does come, we can open the door of our hearts and–with just pride–show the Lord the home we have prepared for him to enter and live in, a home worthy of so eminent a guest as Jesus.

Why don’t we really do it, this year?

Because we can’t. How many years have we tried and failed to clean out the muck and make that perfect home for Jesus to dwell in? We simply can’t do it. It’s beyond our strength. And even if we could, Jesus would pass by our interior palaces to be born in another place. Because he wasn’t born in a palace but in a stable, where the animals smell bad and their manure worse.

When the Messiah comes, says the psalmist, he shall rescue the poor when he cries out, and the afflicted when he has no one to help him. He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor; the lives of the poor he shall save.

Do we consider ourselves among the poor? Are we afflicted? Do we feel the need for someone to come and save our lives? Because it is to those people that Jesus comes: to people who know their poverty before God and, with hope, open the door to the Lord who knocks.

—Fr. Tim Howe, SJ, is president of St. Xavier High School, in Cincinnati, OH.