Ever been on a 10-day road trip?
Now, I enjoy traveling, but 10 days on the road seems excessive to me. There is a lot involved in these trips. There is the extra luggage to pack. There are the roads to navigate. And then, there are the hotels to reserve.
In our modern ways of traveling, a 10-day road trip is mostly two days of actual traveling and eight days spent in a given location. While a 10 day trip is long, we are mostly spending this trip doing what we wanted to be doing – either enjoying our vacations or doing some form of business.
Regardless whether we enjoy the 10-day road trip, many of us would not schedule a 10-day trip if our loved one was pregnant and nearing their due date. The longest trip we would probably contemplate would be to the grocery store. A 10-day journey that would have only taken us from point A to point B would have been inconceivable to us. Our medical practitioners would advise us of the great risks we would be taking in going on such a journey. We just would not want to risk the welfare of the child to take on such a journey.
Yet, this is the situation Joseph and Mary find themselves in our passage this evening. They were forced to take this dangerous journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem to participate in the ordered Roman Census. The Census required people to return to their ancestral homes, which meant Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem.
Even if she had property there, Mary’s attendance in Bethlehem was likely not needed, but she goes on the trip. Why? We can only guess. Perhaps Joseph was concerned for Mary delivering the baby alone and wanted to take her with him. Perhaps Joseph was concerned for Mary’s welfare and wanted to protect her. Rumors would have been rampant about Mary’s pregnancy, and likely no one believed her if she told people that the baby was the expected Messiah conceived by the Holy Spirit. It would have been likely that had Joseph gone on this journey alone, Mary would have faced adultery accusations and might have been killed. Her participation on this journey to Bethlehem might have been to protect her. This was not an easy journey.
Nor was it an easy visit once they arrived in Bethlehem. They probably would have stopped at Joseph’s home first, only to find out that the guest room was filled. Joseph’s family would have also been in for the Census, and there would have been no room for Mary, especially with as close as she was to her due date. The only option would have been to go to the barn area, which in some ancient homes would have been a room in the house or just off to the side.
This is strange to us. We would never think about giving birth to our children in a barn. Yet, this was the only option available to Mary on this night. From his very birth, Jesus faced a series of rejections that is symbolic of there being no room for him at Joseph’s home. In those days, a central aspect of hospitality would have been to provide room for a traveler. Each home would have had a guest room to use to welcome travelers. On this night, the room was occupied and no one came to care for Mary. She and Joseph were left alone in the dirtiness of a barn. They were rejected by the world in their time of deepest need.
It was in this barn area that the world received the most precious of gifts – the birth of the long-expected Son of God. On this night, God ushered in the greatest act of salvation and began the process of redeeming the world back into a relationship with God. The expectation of a Savior, who would redeem the people of Israel, was fulfilled on this night in the most unexpected of ways.
Even in this idea of Christ coming in the most unexpected ways, we can see that Jesus’ birth, life, and ministry ran against the basic ideas many of that time had for the coming Messiah. They had no room for a Messiah that did not fit their expectations and desires.
Jesus came as the Christ, the anointed Messiah, who is the Son of God and the King of Kings. His birth fulfilled the greatest prophesies very foretold about God sending a Savior, God’s own Son, to the world. He would come as the “Mediator between God and humanity who as truly God” would “liberate humanity from the power of sin by the death on the cross.” Christ came into the world with a purpose. As the Son of God, his mission was to bring humanity back into a relationship with God. Because our acts of disobedience that began with Adam and Eve and which we continue to do today, our relationship with God was broken. Something was needed in order to restore this relation back to its original intent. In Leviticus, we see the actions came in a sin sacrifice, but the sacrifice was only for a moment. Jesus’ birth anticipates his death and resurrection, for this was his mission – to die on the cross and to be the ultimate mediator between God and humanity. It is through the belief that Christ died for us that we can be renewed and restored in our relationship with God.
But, the people of Israel at that time had no room for a Savior, a Messiah, who had to die for them. They believed that because they were born into the faith, they were in a good relationship with God. They believed that if they followed all the rules, they were righteous. They had no room for a Savior who would challenge their understandings of God, or come to redeem all people, include those outside the church.
Christ did not just come as Savior, but also as King and Lord. We sometimes forget that Christ is not just our Savior, but he is also the Lord of our lives. On Christmas Day, Christ’s birth inaugurated his reign as the King who sat on the throne of David. Jesus is the promised Son of David, who inherited the eternal kingdom promised to David. In 2 Samuel 7, we begin to see that David’s kingdom would never end and that God’s kingdom would come about through this kingdom. In Jesus’ birth, the kingdom of God was inaugurated, a kingdom that places Jesus as the Lord. It is a kingdom that shows us what it means to live as followers of Christ, not just in our personal lives, but in our interactions with our communities and our world. It is a kingdom that will never end.
But the people did not have room for this kingdom, because Christ did not come in the way they expected. He came in the most humble of ways. He was born to a family that was poor and not of great notoriety. The manner in which Jesus was born immediately identified the Son of God with the poor, the forgotten, the neglected, the rejected, and the outcast. They had no room for a servant-leadership form of a King who came “not to be served but to serve.” Even more, the people had no room for a King who did not fit their military needs. The expectation of the people was that the Son of God would come and would restore the people of Israel. They expected it would be a military conquest and victory over the Roman Empire. Christ did restore the kingdom, but did so by offering himself as an act of obedience to God. The kingdom of God reigns today, because Christ, the Son of God, entered the world and redeemed the world back to God, not by the world’s expectations, but by the Father’s expectations.
What about us? Do we have room for Jesus in our own lives, and in the lives of our communities? Our gut answer might be to say, “Yes.” We are here on this Christmas Eve and worshiping as a community with song and praises directed to Christ our King. Let us not be fooled into believing our own hype of our own righteousness. Whether or not we have made room for Christ in our lives is based on who we have given priority to in our lives.
We have no room for Christ if we decide, by word or action, that our gods or idols, such as our finances, our jobs, and our allegiances, are more important than our relationship with God. We have no room for Christ if we place our own need to be right over God’s authority. We have no room for Christ if we act like the Jewish Scribes in Matthew 2. When the Wise Men came to find where the Messiah was, the Scribes knew where to go but refused to look. We have no room for Christ when we know where to seek Christ, in Scripture and in community with other believers, yet never go out to find him. We have no room for Christ if we are unwilling to live into Christ’s example by seeking to live in peace with one another, to seek justice and reconciliation, to proclaim peace and hope, and to be a blessing to others in need.
There are many other places that we might not make room for Christ, but hear this good news: even when we have not made room for Christ, Christ has made room for us. When we are disobedient, the Son of God made room for us by taking on the form of a human, experiencing the life we experience, and gave himself up for us in the ultimate gift of love and grace. We can experience peace, joy, hope, and love because the Son of God came and lives today.
It’s an experience we can live into this Christmas season. Christ calls all of us to move into a posture that allows us to make room for the Son of God to live and be manifest in our lives. We do so first by freely accepting the gift of grace given to us through Jesus Christ. Simply accepting the greatest gift begins the process of making room for Christ. As well, we must allow the Holy Spirit to work in us to allow Christ to be more at the center of our lives. We make room for Christ by becoming less, and allowing Christ to be at the center of our lives, our worldview, and our interactions with others. Christ came to be at the center of our lives and not an afterthought.
On this Christmas Eve night, on this night that we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, have you made room for Christ in your life? Is Christ the center of your life? Is following Jesus what guides your interactions with others? Are you growing in the image of Christ daily?
No matter how you answered these questions, there is no better night to renew our walk with Christ than on this night of celebrating his initial coming, as we await his return. In a moment, we will have a time of celebration of communion. I invite you to spend some time in prayer with Christ and make room for Christ by allowing him to be the center, maybe for the first time, maybe for the second time, maybe for the 100th time. Feel the grace, peace, and hope that comes from Christ as he transforms us into a living representation of his ongoing life.
May we all on this Christmas Eve night, and every day, make room for Christ in our hearts and in our lives.