December 25, 2013 - Christmas at Midnight - Year A
Have You Any Room For Jesus?
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Unknown in His own House
It's not like Joseph could have gotten online and booked a place ahead of time. There was no Yahoo or Google. No e-mail. No iPhone. No text messaging. All the instant communication we can't live without did not exist at that first Christmas. We don't give logistics a second thought because before we can imagine there's a problem we're already Googling for an answer. We book flights, and hotels, and dining out, online and receive instant text messages confirming our requests. And upon arrival at the terminal, or hotel, or restaurant, or Regal Cinema, we have authorization numbers and bar codes on our handy dandy SmartPhone and presto, we're in without any further questions.
The journey was slow going for Mary and Joseph given that Mary was 'great with child.' Fellow travelers to Bethlehem had passed them up days ago. And now entering the ancient city of David as the sun set, Mary and Joseph began looking for a place to lay down for the night. Local cousins seemed more distant than they were from Nazareth. It seems that news of Mary's 'strange' pregnancy arrived before they did. Perhaps the local Inn would have a place for them to stay. Sold out. The proprietor was sorry and noticed Mary's tummy brimming with a new life inside. He thought for a moment and hesitantly said, "There is a corner in the animal shed behind the Inn. I built it myself against a big rock so you will have plenty of privacy and protection from the night air. I can even prepare a fire for you to help keep you warm. The animals will stay behind the low fence separating you from them." The Inn keeper seemed genuinely wanting to help any way he could.
Joseph looked at Mary who gave an approving nod.
"Great! I'll bring some food out for you as well. Both of you look like you haven't eaten much in the last couple of days."
And thus began the reality and destiny of this Child's life - the foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no where to lay his head.
Like Us in Every Way - Except Sin
The evening ended with the warm lamb soup the Inn keeper provided. But close to midnight Mary knew that the time had come. She woke Joseph. He quickly arranged some hay in a feeding trough; no crib for this King's first bed. The minutes passed with great expectation; the air seemed alive in a different way. A local cat meandered closer and a dog followed his lead. The two cows in the stall chewed their cud and the camels knelt down in their regal and reverent posture. And Joseph beheld the handmaiden of the Lord with nervous wonder. In his heart he rehearsed the Angel's message: "You will name Him Jesus! For he shall save his people from their sins."
Then Mary broke the silent night. Between contractions she whispered, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior." The months of ugly stares and bewildered faces, faded away. In a moment that marked their union, the strong and older hand of Joseph grasped Mary's hand. His strength, and character and faith washed over Mary's grateful heart as the second Adam descended into the birth canal. There was every reason to be fearful, but no fear gripped Mary's heart - that is no fear of a hopeless sort. Gabriel had said, "The Lord is with you." And that she believed with every contraction and with every push.
Joseph sat at Mary's feet now. His eyes grew wide with wonder as the head crowned. "That last push means one or two more times, maybe three, and"...Then Mary whispered again, "He has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden and all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name."
There were no CNN or FOX News teams on hand. There were no pictures. Joseph and Mary carried in their hearts the knowledge that in the fulness of time, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman. (Galatians 4:4)
Asleep in a Feeding Trough
In the outlying area of Bethlehem there were shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. And the sky lit up and the glory of the Lord shone all around. It was a fearful sight. But the Angel of the Lord appeared to them and said, "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find the babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger."
And all at once there was with the Angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!" And with haste they went to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
As the second reading proclaims, the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, to set us free from Satan's power - good news indeed - tidings of comfort and joy! So the question remains, have you any room for Jesus? Is there room in your heart and in your home for Him? Let us today swing our heart's door widely open and let Him in today; let Him in to stay!
Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Amen.