And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:6,7 King James Version.
Just in time for Easter: The Christmas Story. How convenient is that? As we focus on the Passion and Resurrection of the Christ, it’s a great time to reflect on some of the events surrounding His birth.
The only narratives regarding Jesus’ birth, are found in Chapter 1 of Matthew and Chapter 2 of the Gospel of Luke and they record totally different aspects of the event. They don’t contradict each other, but rather tell the story from different angles. Matthew gives us some of the events from Joseph’s perspective, while Luke (the detail obsessed doctor) gives us much more information, and does so from Mary’s view.
Luke, Chapter 2, is the first chapter of the Bible I remember memorizing as a child; King James version, of course. To this very day, I still love the poetic, lyrical rhythms of that translation of this particular chapter.
I want to focus our attention on verses 6 and 7, if you have a minute. These two short verses, tell us many things about Jesus arrival, some of it counter to what we may have thought all our lives.
‘ She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” There are so many layers in this one sentence that it’s hard to know how many of them to peel back.
It seems to me that growing up, I had this idea that Mary’s labor pains caught everyone by surprise and that she and Joseph were scrambling around trying to figure out what to do. ‘….wrapped him in swaddling clothes’ suggests something quite different. These strips of cloth were not scraps left laying around the barn. Every baby born was wrapped in these. I would almost compare them to a combination diaper/receiving blanket kit. The point is, Mary and Joseph were not surprised by the onset of labor. They travelled from Nazareth to Bethlehem because they had to and they knew full well that the baby would arrive while they were out of town. They came prepared. They had their ‘diaper bag’ kitted out so that wherever they were when labor hit, they would be ready to handle the situation.
‘…because there was no room for them in the inn.’ For some reason, I get the impression that there are still folk who have the notion that Mary and Joseph were poverty stricken, homeless and in despair and were forced by their situation to hole up in a stable. That’s not exactly the case. In point of fact, we don’t know anything about Joseph’s and Mary’s financial situation. We know Joseph was a carpenter of Royal Descent and they lived about 70 or so miles north of the family home. The reason Jesus was ‘laid in a manger’ was because there was no room for them in the inn. The census had caused an influx of visitors to the village and the hotel was full. The No Vacancy sign (or it’s equivalent) was in the window.
The sad part to me was not the absence of hotel space, but that no one MADE room. Here is Mary, clearly ‘great with child’, and not one person said, “Oh my, here take my room,” or, “you know what, we’ll crowd you into our space with us.” They were all so busy, so focused, dare I say it, so selfish, they left the expecting couple in the streets to fend for themselves.
I can’t help but wonder how many ‘Marys’ we pass each day, who need a bed, a room, a meal, some water, a dollar, a hug, or maybe just a smile, but there’s no room in our day or our hearts to notice anything but our own needs.
You know who did make room? The cows moved aside, the goats stepped to the back of the stable, the sheep left their feed trough, the donkeys walked away. Even the snake slithered into his hole and made room for the Creator. The created world recognized their Lord and rejoiced to see Him, while the people, the humans created in His image had ‘no room’. The apostle John, in the first chapter of his Gospel put it this way, “He came to that which was his own, and his own people did not receive Him.’
Before this night was over, angels would sing, shepherds would marvel and the very stars of heaven would shine down in worship of the Word who became flesh. The citizens of Bethlehem, though, revelled the night away, or slept blissfully in their own little self centered worlds.
Those of us who are Believers, know that Jesus is coming back. His first trip began in obscurity and ended in a cocktail of gore and glory. There was no room for him to be born in Bethlehem, so He was laid in a manger. There was no room for His message in Jerusalem so they nailed Him to a cross, There was no room for Him to be buried, so He was laid in a borrowed grave. There was no room for Him in the grave, because He is Life itself, so He rose.
Even today, there is no room for Him. There is no room for Him in the School House and there is no room for Him in the Court House. There is no room for Him in the public square or in the city park. Is there room for Him in MY house? In Your house? What about in our hearts?
Mary and Joseph knew the time was near for the baby to be born and they were prepared. The place and time didn’t matter, they were ready for any circumstance. They had their ‘swaddling clothes’ all in order. When He returns, this time in triumph rather than obscurity, I wonder how many of us will be prepared, or whether or not we’ll have room at all? I choose to be ready. I hope you make that choice, too.