Here we are. Christmas Eve and there is still No Room At The Inn. This is the night of a story that is so new, so fresh that it seems to electrify the air with anticipation and expectation.
And yet it is a story and message which is so old that it is hard to hear it without slipping into automatic response mode. And yet, somewhere along the way, usually when we least expect it, this story is born again in our hearts; faith and hope are birthed once more in our spirit. And with Faith and Hope filling our spirits, the world may not make sense, but our place in the world begins to.
With Faith and Hope we can face anything because the baby born tonight, Emmanuel, God with us, means we are not alone. The universe is not some black hole sucking the life out of us, it is home to God the Creator who loves us dearly, so dearly that he sent His only Son in the most vulnerable way possible, as a baby born into a family just like ours and a world just like ours. He became one of us and walked where we walk.
But from the world’s point of view, everything about that first Christmas was wrong.
I. WRONG GIFT:
First of all, it was the WRONG GIFT. If you were to ask people what they wanted for Christmas, I’ll bet there wouldn’t be anyone who said: “I want God to enter into human history. I want God to step out of heaven to become one of us and live among us.”
Even the most devout believer probably wouldn’t have asked for that. Why? Because it’s too frightening. God in the flesh, wandering around messing in our affairs, expecting a relationship. As long as God’s in heaven and some distant figure we don’t really have to deal with it’s OK. But if God becomes one of us, real flesh and blood like the rest of us, then suddenly God is real and not some theological head game. And if God is real, then the demands of God become real, too.
And who in their right mind would ask for that? So, you can see why, according to the world’s point of view, it was the WRONG GIFT.
II. WRONG TIME:
Besides, this Gift came at the WRONG TIME. If God were to do it all over again, NOW would be a much better time. Look at all the mass communication we’ve got today. Mass communication back then was a town crier or announcement at the local synagogue. If Jesus had been born today we could capture the whole thing on video and broadcast it live throughout the world, over and over again. We could text message everyone with cell phone, post streaming video of the angels and wise men on the internet. We could send out a spam free mass email that could be forwarded to all of our friends.
Just imagine CNN, FOX and all the others scrambling to be the first to interview the shepherds. Of course the National Enquirer would probably have the true story of the alien visitation and the untold story of Jesus’ twin brother but we’d ignore that like all the rest.
Imagine a play by play description of the wise men bringing their gifts. And online, pop up links would take you to a description of their gifts, further information on the use of Frankincnse and Myrrh and spread sheet on the value of gold in every world market.
And we’d finally get answered the age old question of just how many wise men there actually were. Three? Five? Eleven? Did they really ride camels? Oh and think of the astronomy and astrology lessons we would receive. Every stargazer in the world would suddenly become an overnight celebrity.
It would be just like watching the Truman Show. We’d see Jesus’ first smile. We’d hear his first giggle and watch him take his first steps. We’d know what happened between the birth and his trip to the Temple. And we’d find out what he did during those 18 years between his bar mitzvah and the beginning of his preaching ministry.
And think of the message of Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount could have been heard by the entire world, live, with limited commercial interruptions.
So, you can see why, according to the world’s standards, this gift came at the WRONG TIME.
III. WRONG PACKAGE:
Not only that but this Gift came in the WRONG PACKAGE. Who’d a thunk it? As somebody said. Jesus as a baby. God wrapped up in the fragile innocence of infant flesh. In this age of 64 ounce fountain drinks we want something bigger or someone bigger. A God with a “mighty hand and an outstretched arm!” as the prophets said. A God ready for a good brawl! A turbo- charged, beefed up, hard body, no nonsense, take charge, “The Force be with you!”, Guardians of the Galaxy, kind of God.
Not a baby. What kind of God announces his coming, puts everybody on hold until their expectations are high and then comes as an infant who makes us wait until he grows up. We want someone who will turn the world upside down, now. Not in thirty years.
So, you can see, according to the world’s standards, this Gift came in the WRONG PACKAGE.
IV. THROUGH THE WRONG PEOPLE:
THE WRONG GIFT, THE WRONG TIME, THE WRONG PACKAGE. Not only that but this Gift came THROUGH THE WRONG PEOPLE.
Joseph was a nobody. Oh, sure he was a distant relative of King David but so was Mary and probably half of the people in Israel at the time. My wife Mary is a distant relative of Charlemagne but that doesn’t make her royalty.
These were ordinary, everyday folks. That’s just wrong. Shouldn’t the Son of God, the Savior have come from a more established, well thought of and well known family than that of a carpenter from Nazareth? Think of all the families Jesus could have been born into today that would have prepared him in the best schools and synagogues possible. Mary and Joseph were absolute nobodies.
According to the world’s point of view, this Gift came THROUGH THE WRONG PEOPLE.
V. TO THE WRONG PEOPLE:
And finally, according to the world’s point of view, this Gift came TO THE WRONG PEOPLE.
Who do you give Christmas presents to? Friends, family, loved ones, people you care about and people who care about you. Sure we support our Angel Tree and Operation Christmas Child but we don’t normally buy gifts for strangers, for people who don’t like us or have wronged us. We don’t buy gifts for people who have broken every law possible. But that’s exactly who God gave this first Christmas gift to.
First there were the Wise men. They weren’t Jews. They probably weren’t even been from the same country. They were foreigners. Goya, non-Jews, Gentiles. And God told them first and God even lit up the highway for them with the star.
And then the Angel told shepherds in their field watching their sheep. They sound safe enough, don’t they? David was a shepherd. But what we forget is that in the world of that time, faithful Jews were warned by their rabbis against entering six professions. One of those forbidden professions was being a shepherd!
Conscientious Pharisees would never consider doing business with a shepherd! They’d buy wool and milk, but never directly from a shepherd. Shepherds weren’t allowed to give testimony in court. Not only that but shepherds weren’t permitted to enter the temple or the synagogue. Why?! Well, there were some pretty good reasons.
For one thing, shepherds were constantly walking among the droppings of the sheep, and that made them religiously unclean.
Secondly, shepherds tended their sheep throughout the countryside, without paying any attention to property lines. In other words, they were constantly trespassing.
And there’ more, because they were on other people’s property, shepherds were considered to be thieves. They ran the local black market! Nobody loved a shepherd! Shepherds were liars and thieves who’d steal you blind. They were dirty, disgusting and despised. And if Willie Nelson had written the song back then it would’ve been: “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be shepherds!”
According to the world’s standards, this Gift came TO THE WRONG PEOPLE.
But as we unwrap this Gift of God, and make room in the Inn of our hearts, we look at it and realize that by God’s standards and to our advantage, everything about that very first Christmas was perfect.
God coming in human flesh, was the RIGHT GIFT. God came as “one of us. Just a slob like one of us.” As Joan Osbourne said in her song years ago. And that was the Perfect gift.
Given at the RIGHT TIME. I mean really. We’d make a media circus out of Jesus’ birth now. Instead, God chose a simple time, where like a seed, like a baby, the Word could grow and bear fruit and not become a circus.
And it came in the RIGHT PACKAGE. One of the things that draws us to this story is that God loves us so much that God became vulnerable like one of us by sending His Son. And what melts a heart more than a baby? We all go a little nuts making faces and silly sounds, carrying on like simpletons whenever we see a baby. This gift came in the RIGHT PACKAGE.
And God sent this Gift THROUGH THE RIGHT PEOPLE. Not everyone would have had the faith to listen to God through the Angels and then carry out God’s plan in such a humble way.
And God sent this Gift TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE. If the Shepherds, with the reputation they had and the Wise men, who weren’t even locals, could receive this magnificent Gift from God, then that means it’s available to all of us as well.
It was the Perfect Recipe for Salvation. This “babe, the son of Mary” WAS, IS and ALWAYS WILL BE the Son of God, the King of Kings.
He wasn’t born into royalty. There was no fancy castle or crown. He was born in a stable and laid in a manger. There were no royal attendants, just shepherds and stargazers from the east. There were no royal robes, just swaddling clothes.
And yet it was the RIGHT GIFT, AT THE RIGHT TIME, IN THE RIGHT PACKAGE, THROUGH THE RIGHT PEOPLE, TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE.
This IS Christ the King, Emmanuel, God with us. There was No Room At The Inn that night but there is more than enough room in our hearts.
He came for us; for all of us; as one of us; to deliver us; to live in us and that’s what makes this night so holy.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.