Saturday, December 24, 2016
In a world that once existed, long before cell phones, the internet, Travelocity or Expedia; Ann Marie and I made an ill fated weekend trip one year over Labor Day Weekend. The plan was that we would leave on Thursday or Friday and return on Monday. We had reservations at a Bed & Breakfast in Southwest Virginia for the first night or two and then our plan was to visit some of the other small mountain towns of Western North Carolina or Eastern Tennessee for the remainder of the trip where we would no doubt find a room for Saturday and Sunday evening.
When our stay at the Bed & Breakfast ended and we began to meander around North Carolina that Saturday, we found ourselves, traveling from one town to another and one hotel to another with absolutely no luck. It was a beautiful holiday weekend and there simply were no rooms to be found anywhere. Late that night, somewhere around 9 or 10 o’clock, frustrated, we gave up and headed home. For the bulk of the afternoon and evening, what we had heard over and over again was in essence what Mary and Joseph heard on that first Christmas night, “we just don’t have any room”.
In truth, we generally think of that phrase in verse 7 of Luke 2, where Jesus is born in a manger because there was “no room for them in the inn” as nothing more than a sad, small footnote to the Christmas story. And, without a doubt, that is what it is.
Yet, this sad footnote in the Christmas story is far sadder when it becomes a major footnote to our lives. For the truth is that so much of the time, we don’t have much room for Jesus either.
Yes, the Inn in Bethlehem was overflowing and there were no vacancies. But, so often, there are no vacancies in our lives either. With work to do at our place of employment and in our homes, places to be with our kids and our extended family and responsibilities to our communities and other civic organizations, so many of us have not room left for the Christ child of Bethlehem. It isn’t so much that we don’t believe the story, that we don’t accept the message of the Gospels, or, that we don’t believe that the teaching of the faith would benefit our lives – we do.
The simple fact of the matter is that for some many of us and for so many of our families in 2016, we just don’t have any room. Our lives are already filled to overflowing and the Christ of Bethlehem is the one who gets left out in the cold just as his family was left out of the Inn on that fateful night in Bethlehem.
At least in part, however, Christmas gives us the chance to begin again, to get it right, to clear out the necessary space. And, by coming here tonight, we have made a good beginning. We have said that one thing we need to do on this Christmas Eve is to make room for worship, for Jesus, for the real significance of this season.
In turn, my encouragement to all of us is that we would not see tonight as a one time thing but as something to build. For the joy of our faith is found in making room not once in a while but rather every day for this one born in Bethlehem.
So, on this Christmas Eve, what does it mean for us as individuals to make room for the Christ child? Does it mean to invite him into our heart for the very first time and make Christ our Lord? Does it mean to do some reordering in our life to begin to get ourselves and our family to church and to the church’s activities on a more regular basis? Does it mean to move from making room on Sundays to making room everyday? Or does it mean to make some other changes in our life so that other things get left out rather than the things that God really wants us to be about or to do?
Yes, he was born in a manger for there was no room for him in the inn…Yet, will he be born anew in our hearts and in our lives because we saw to it that above all else, there was a place for him? That is our challenge this Christmas. Amen.