Two thousand years ago was a long time ago, and at times we find it hard to imagine any commonality between that time and our modern day.
When we ponder the Christmas story as we have come to tell it, it is not hard to imagine the crowded inn – crowded with groups of friends and relatives, forced to travel to meet the state requirements of the Census, some of them making a party of it even if it was inconvenient. Some people were weary and trying to sleep – whatever – and the inn was full! There was probably lots of loud talking, maybe even dancing and singing. And when May & Joseph arrived the inn-keeper simply stated the obvious – there was no more room.
That situation makes me think of words that are all too common in our day and age –
Do not disturb me, I’m busy!
I would like to help, but I just don’t have the time!
I can’t come to see you. I have business to attend to!
Someone made an interesting observation about the consequences of our frequent excuses for not doing things. They said “every time we excuse ourselves, we exclude ourselves from certain experiences. Being pre-occupied is a great defense against anything new happening.”
When we do this we miss the coming of God.
Yet in our story the innkeeper, who really was busy and hard-pressed somehow found room. He offered a space for Mary and Joseph – simple accommodation – and into that space came the Christ Child.
Amid all our own BUSY-ness around Christmas there is always the threat that it will overwhelm us – and we all need to confront the question – have you made room? Well, in a sense you have – you are here to rejoice that God comes, he comes into this world and he comes to you. We can rejoice in the mystery of the God who seeks to share in our daily lives. We celebrate the greatest of miracles that the Word is made flesh and dwells among us.
John adds these words to that familiar phrase: “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the power to become children of God.”
A long time ago there was a very wise man in Japan – Nan-in. People would come from all over the world to seek his advice about how to live, and were constantly amazed by his wisdom and insight that was just right for each person who came to see him.
One day an American Professor came to seek some teaching from him.
As always when a guest arrived, Nan-in invited the professor in and began with the elaborate tea-ceremony. When it came time to pour the guest’s tea, Nan-in poured and when the bowl was full he kept on pouring making it overflow onto the lacquered tray.
He kept on pouring until the professor could no longer restrain himself. He said to the host “Stop! It is overfull and no more will go in!”
At this the host put the tea put down gently and looked the professor squarely in the eye and said: “You are like this cup. You are full of ideas and speculations. How can I pour more in for you unless you empty your cup? You need to make space to learn.”
In the same way we need to make space in our lives each day for our God who comes to us. Poet Angelus Silesius puts it this way:
Though Christ a thousand times
in Bethlehem is born,
if he is not born in you,
you are still forlorn.
Thank you for making room to be here today and may Christ come to you in all his fullness and create in you a new heart to love as God is love. AMEN.