Just some early morning thoughts from me to you…
“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Luke 2: 6-7 (NIV)
It happens every year, just like the sun comes up every day.
Our Granddaughters go with us to pick out our Christmas tree—usually the one they select—and then after I put the lights on, they present themselves at our home to assist with putting the ornaments, which have been gathered over forty-five years of Christmases, onto the very tree they selected.
The first thing, though, which is placed carefully in position before any of the ornaments are added, is the manger scene. My Granddaughters taught us that a few years ago, making the placement of the manger scene front-and-center under the tree an absolute priority. We have to make room for the most important of the important things—the Christ child.
And now, as we approach once again the celebration of that holy day, and as Christmas presents begin to find their way under the tree around that manger scene, you can’t help but wonder what that day was like so many years ago.
If we could listen across the centuries, I would imagine that we would hear the tramp of millions of feet, all traveling to various parts of the world known at that time, all in obedience to that command of Caesar Augustus. It was a busy road and time and the streets of Bethlehem were crowded, literally overrun with people milling about, talking and trading, waiting to be enrolled, waiting to be taxed.
All of the rooms were taken and so we see Joseph forced to find some shelter for Mary, which he did—in a stable. Having passed by the palace of Herod, the dwelling places of the rich, the hovels of the poor, this young couple’s welcome to Bethlehem was in a stable out behind the inn, because as Luke points out in the scripture verse above “there was no room for them in the inn.”
Welcome to Bethlehem, Holy Family, welcome—to a filthy, damp, cold manger.
It’s really symbolic of what would happen to Jesus throughout His life and throughout His ministry. There was no room for Jesus in the inn. In fact, throughout His life, the welcome was the same, there never seemed to be room. There was no room in the temples or the courts, because His message and his ministry, and who He was—was not understood. There was no room for Him in the lives of so many people. But that has been the case all throughout history—there has been no room for Jesus in the lives of people. Other things seem to crowd Him out.
Why? Why was the Lord of life, the Light that overcame the darkness of the world, crowded out? In a way, I’m not sure the innkeeper has gotten a fair shake over the years since that night. He was preoccupied with running a business, first come-first served, pay your money, and get your room. He was justified in saying no—there was simply no room for the Holy Family in the inn.
But you see it’s by such seemingly justifiable circumstances as those, that the Lord of life is shut out of our lives. Preoccupation is the standard of our day. Preoccupation with the things of everyday living, other priorities, things that get there first and which we allow to stay.
We don’t mean to be irreverent. It’s simply that our lives and hearts get filled with other guests, other priorities, other things, we have our social obligations, schools to attend, games to win, and after all, we have to make a living.
We don’t mean to shove Christ out of our lives—or at the very least set Him to the side. It’s simply that we’re pre-occupied with the business of living, the place is full, there is no vacancy. How can anything else possibly fit into our busy lives?
Another reason Christ is crowded out might be because of what John suggests in his Gospel—that a darkness existed in the world. A darkness of man against man and nation against nation. It’s a darkness that has come and gone throughout history, and it’s a darkness that at times invades our own lives, where we, too, experience feelings of: uncertainty, bitterness, jealousy, despair, depression, guilt, shame, disappointment or failure. Where we find ourselves in a place where our lives have been overcome by all the problems around us, within us, and on top of us. Yet—now stop for a moment and listen to this—it’s a darkness that the light of God’s magnificent invasion of our world overcame over two centuries ago and can overcome once again in your life and in mine.
Maybe the innkeeper or other people throughout history—like we tend to do—didn’t leave room for Him because they didn’t recognize the importance of the moment. I mean, if the innkeeper had realized for whom Joseph was making arrangements; I wonder if he would have found them a room in the inn? If only he had known that this was the Son of God, if only someone had told him that years later we would date our letters from that night in his stable, and the birth that occurred there. If only he had known, surely he would have made room—wouldn’t he? But, of course that wasn’t the way God planned it.
We, like that innkeeper, often miss the mighty, the powerful, the tremendous evidences of God, because He chooses to hide Himself in the meek and lowly, in the quiet gentle ways of a Babe in a manger, or in the afternoon ascent of a bright full moon on a clear cold day, or in the brightest star against the darkest night, in a baby’s laugh, or the time-honored wrinkles of a grandmother’s face, or that moment that unexpectedly presents itself to play with our children or grandchildren—something we realize we haven’t done in a while. Before they’re grown and gone. So often it seems that God does things in such strange and quiet ways, that we just don’t see those sacred moments when God is in our midst.
Christmas has come. And we are heading again toward that celebration of the Christ child, with the hope that we will be reminded afresh and anew of the birth of the Baby Jesus. With the hope that it will change us even more into the person God created us to be.
Will we make room for Him this year—under our trees, in our hearts, in our lives? Will we allow Him to stay, to guide us, to direct us, to love us, and to change us into all He created us to be? Will we make room for Him today, tomorrow and throughout eternity?
Christ has come. And we dare not miss Him—He will make all the difference in our lives.
May I suggest that we stop and look within and make room for Him in our lives?
Careful though, because when we do that it will change us. It will move you closer and closer to the God who loves you and created you. Now that’s a welcome change.
Merry Christmas to each of you!
In His Name—Scott
Copyright 2012. Scott L. Whitaker. All rights reserved.