In which Joseph writes a not so flattering Yelp review of the inn…
“At it’s heart, the Christian faith is about making room where there is none…
What begins as a story with no room in the inn, ends with a story of room for all who are willing to come and see. Jesus constantly pushed the boundaries to invite others closer to him. He lived his life unafraid to let people in and by doing so empowers us to know and be known…
To be loved with and even through our failures and shortcomings is the most profound kind of love we can hope for. In Christ, we are loved not because of our ability to be perfect, but through our willingness to be vulnerable. We are accepted not because of the value we add to some divine economy, but because we are God’s children.”
Luke 2:1-7 – In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All went to their own towns to be registered. 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
I can only imagine the yelp review that would have resulted if Mary and Joseph had given birth to Jesus in this day and age. I can picture the image of them sitting up late that last night, out back in the manger because their reservation got lost and this was the only option. When we read a biblical story, we often put little halos above the heads of the main characters and imagine them as softly spoken and willing to go along and be nice no matter what happens. That’s wrong. The people in scripture are real people – no less angry or annoyed; no more holy than any of us.
[I can only imagine the kind of yelp review Joseph would have given of the manger if Yelp existed at the time…]
It really must have been quite the story and quite the experience for Mary and Joseph. I’ll bet they shared it at every opportunity for years to come. And, if they had any choice in the matter, I’ll bet they never went back to that same inn. But it’s funny how things turn out sometimes. That helpless little child couldn’t even find room enough in the inn. And yet he would grow up to be the one to help us all find room in the family of God. At it’s heart, the Christian faith is about making room where there is none.
Making room is easy when there’s no one else involved. You can live the frontier dream with nothing but grass as far as the eye can see. Making room is much more difficult when it involves letting someone else into our lives. Ask any parent how things change when a younger sibling is born. Life is often a dance between conflicting desires. I want all this space and to keep everyone from invading my elbow room. But, I don’t want so much space that I start to feel isolated and alone. I want to keep a few secrets to myself because everyone would run if they knew the deepest parts of who I am. But I don’t want to be so private that I no longer know and am known by others.
Back and forth we go, wanting to let people in….and keep them out at the same time. Romanticism is probably the easiest coping skill to deal with the conflict. Just assume it’s all good – or at least good enough. It’s especially easy to do in remembering the big events – things used to be perfect – and if the present doesn’t hold up to the standard, we at least have the memory of the good old days. Romanticism is so enticing because the alternative is so terrifying – admitting that things aren’t great means letting people get too close for comfort. If you’re close enough to let me down, you’re not far enough away for me to stay in control. And the easier choice – the choice our culture relentlessly pushes us toward – is to avoid any situation where pain is a possibility.
What we find in the story of Jesus Christ is exactly the opposite. We find in the story of Jesus that God so loved the world that he came close enough to feel the pain of rejection Himself. When we speak of the passion of the Christ, passion is not some romantic notion of strong desire and a burning heart for humanity. The passion of the Christ is the willingness of God to feel our deepest hurts and to know our darkest hour. And rather than wallowing in self pity or getting trapped in despair, what happens next in quite the opposite. When God makes room for us to feel what we feel – when God takes on the struggles of our hearts to know and be known – in that presence and in that space, there is healing.
The first Christmas morning, Christ came down to make room where there was none. In this one chaotic moment, we see Jesus making room for the fullness of all that we are. There was room for the imperfect parents of Jesus. Despite our desire to see them as calmly majestic angels in disguise, they were no better and no worse than two unwed pregnant teens today.
There was room for the local shepherds. They were just a bunch of guys in the field with nothing of value but the clothes on their back. They simply came and saw the little child lying in a manger. Then they went and told the story to anyone who would listen.
There was room for the well to do wise men. These foreigners came to visit Jesus from the East and had nothing in common with him. They simply came and brought their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Even the livestock and nature found room by his side in that chaotically beautiful moment in the manger; when God came down to make room where there was none.
What begins as a story with no room in the inn, ends with a story of room for all who are willing to come and see. Jesus constantly pushed the boundaries to invite others closer to him. He lived his life unafraid to let people in and by doing so empowers us to know and be known. His life is a reminder that so much more is possible when we don’t settle for the illusion that life is good enough, but we seek to know the fullness of the love and life Jesus Christ makes possible. It’s not that hard to see the beautiful potential of being known and loved just as we are … But it is even easier to know the fear of letting someone too close. Jesus’ desire to love and make room for everyone was so popular and easy and obvious…. that it led him to the cross. I can only imagine what he would have written to his parents on his last night on earth if he’d been given the chance.
[Dear Mom and Dad…]
Of course, we know Jesus never sat down to write that letter to his parents. But His life was just that kind of love letter to us all. To be loved with and even through our failures and shortcomings is the most profound kind of love we can hope for. In Christ, we are loved not because of our ability to be perfect, but through our willingness to be vulnerable. We are accepted not because of the value we add to some divine economy, but because we are God’s children.
No one predicted that a life that began like it did would lead to where it did. The gift of Jesus is not the predictable joy that makes for a great holiday special – it is the hope that love is present no matter how chaotic or stressful or frustrating life becomes. In the midst of that dark night, in the chaos of that manger bed, the light and life of the world was born. Make room in your heart for Jesus Christ this Christmas night. Let Christ come near enough that you know and are known by Him. At the table of grace, Jesus Christ has made room for us all.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.