Jesus was born in a stable because there was no room or him in the inn. The innkeeper didn't know that the Son of God was coming to him. He wasn't prepared and missed a great blessing.
If he had known what we know, how differently he might have acted! The Scriptures would have acknowledged him as a participant in this great event. The gospel might read, "Jesus was born in an inn in Bethlehem, far from his home, attended by the innkeeper and the innkeeper's wife." Pilgrimages would bring the faithful to this famous inn instead of to the cave.
We know that Jesus comes into our lives in a special way at Christmas. We know that the real meaning of Christmas is not what the world promotes. Do you ever get a little angry when you discover you've been diverted from the spiritual Christmas by so many activities that leave you exhausted and in no mood for prayer or worship?
Our hearts long to get away from all the tinsel and the extra demands on our time and energy. If only we could get it all done, we reason, then we could enjoy the real meaning of Christmas. Do we ever get it all done?
The innkeeper was too busy to understand one young couple's need. His business was flourishing and many important people demanded the innkeeper’s attention. After Joseph’s persistence, the innkeeper gave in a little, offering the stable instead of sending him away. Sometimes we behave like the innkeeper. No matter how persistent Jesus is, we keep him on the periphery of our Christmas activities, not ignoring him, but not letting him share closely in our lives.
Jesus comes into our hearts when we make a vacancy — a vacancy of space, time, energy and focus. During Advent we are given the opportunity that innkeeper never had, the opportunity to prepare our lives, our hearts and yes, even our homes, for the coming of the Christ Child.
Perhaps you are exhausted from an impossible schedule of extra events that demand your attention. Plans are important to help others truly enjoy Christmas, but simple truths call for a simple lifestyle. As you prepare your home for houseguests, see the innkeeper bustling around with all his cares and missing the simple truth of Christ's coming. As you bake and sew and shop, pray for that person who will receive the fruit of your efforts. Are you giving them what the Lord wants for them? Pray that they will receive his gifts this Christmas. Wrap your gifts with a prayer for the recipients that God will bless them with his gifts of peace, love, healing or whatever he has for them.
Advent and August
Advent reminds me of late August in some ways. The back-to-school bustle sees the shops full and the checkbook balance almost empty as parents prepare their children for the big day, the first day of the new school year. And yet we all know that what happens on the first day of school does not depend on the new clothes or the lunch box. The new school year really begins when the students receive the gift of knowledge the teacher imparts to them — no sooner, no later.
So it is with Christmas. Whether all the traditions and expectations are fulfilled, Christ waits to come to us at Christmas. Preoccupied with the tinsel, we can miss the blessing by not receiving the gift that he offers.
Come away and prepare your hearts and your lives for the blessings he has for you. Like children on the first day of school, see that Christmas is the beginning, not the end. When all the toys are broken and the food consumed, he will still be with you.
As you prepare a vacancy for the Christ Child, expect to receive a great blessing. The greater the vacancy, the greater the blessing. Prepare to be filled with his Spirit to overflowing.
How can we clear away the wrappings of distraction and welcome the gift of Christ into the inn of our hearts?
(© 2015 Nancy H C Ward)