Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“By this we come to know the essential love; that He laid down His own life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for those who are our brothers and sisters in Him…Little children, let us not love merely in theory or in speech but in deed and in truth, in practice and in sincerity.”
1 John 3:16, 18
“It is a straight forward case of cause and effect, not some complicated formula or technique. In fact, not until the impact of the laid-down life of the Babe of Bethlehem comes crashing through the crust around our hard self-centered hearts will humility ever displace our despicable self-preoccupation. Then and only then will the expulsive power of humility’s presence displace our selfishness, enabling us to go out into a broken, shattered, bleeding wounded world as suffering servants.
The humility of Christ, the meekness of His gracious Spirit, the gentleness of our God can only be known, seen, felt, and experienced by a tough world in the lives of God’s people. If (secular) society finds God at all they will have to find Him at work in the ‘garden’ of His children’s lives. It is there His fruits should flourish and abound. It is there they should be readily found.”
W. Phillip Keller
Today’s Study Text:
“And (Mary) gave birth to her Son, her Firstborn, and she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room or place for them in the inn.”
“He Came to Them First” Part 4
The InnKeeper – “No Vacancy”
“For most (people) the world is centered in self, which is misery; to have one’s world centered in God is peace.”
What if I had been the innkeeper when Mary and Joseph arrived at the place of lodging where I worked, would I have made room for them?
Have I ever had to make room in my life for someone who I viewed as an outcast?
Have I ever said to Jesus, “Sorry there’s no room for You in my life”?
“Swaddling clothes camouflaged the King of Glory.”
“Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child.
Make thee a bed, soft, undefiled.
Within my heart, that it may be
A quiet chamber kept for Thee.”
“The snow lies crisp beneath the stars,
On roofs and on the ground;
Late footsteps crunch along the paths,
There is no other sound.
So cold it is the roadside trees
Snap in the rigid frost,
A dreadful night to think on them,
The homeless and the lost.
The dead sleep sheltered in the tomb,
The rich drink in the hall;
The Virgin and the Holy Child
Lie shivering in a stall.”
At the appointed time, we are told, Jesus was born. Now if in our mind’s eye we think that the little babe was delivered by specialists in a decked out suite, especially designed for the birth of the offspring of the rich and famous, we would be totally incorrect. As Dr. Luke shares with us, this little child was delivered in a stable – a place which housed domestic animals. And His cradled bed was a manger – a food bin for sheep and cattle.
I must admit that I’ve pondered this story on more than one occasion. Obviously I’m not the only person to consider why an innkeeper would be so hard-hearted as to turn out a pregnant teen who may very well have been in active labor by the time she and Joseph arrived at the “Bethlehem Inn.” I like the way that the great Bible commentator Matthew Henry delves into this perplexing story:
“Christ was born in an inn, to intimate that He came into the world but to sojourn here for awhile, as in an inn, and to teach us to do likewise. An inn receives all comers, and so does Christ. He hangs out the banner of love for His sign, and whoever comes to Him, He will in no wise cast out. Unlike other inns, He welcomes those that come without ‘money and without price’. All is on free cost.”
What a thought for us to reflect on this Christmas. Had Christ come to earth with the wealth of royalty as His accompaniments, how would the poor and lowly ever feel that they were worthy of the esteem and love of “One” so far above them. However, it wasn’t just the fact that Christ’s humble beginning in life on earth makes Him reachable to every person, there’s more that draws us to Bethlehem’s stable.
As Matthew Henry also points out, “That son of David that was the glory of his father’s house had no inheritance that he could command, not in the city of David. No not a friend that would accommodate his mother in her distress…because there was no room in the inn He was born in a stable…He being laid in a manger was an instance of the poverty of his parents. Had they been rich, room would have been made for them; but, being poor, they must do with what they could find…If there had been any common humanity among those who treated a woman so barbarously, they would not have turned a woman in travail into a stable. It was an instance of the humiliation of our Lord Jesus. And we by sin are like an out-cast infant, helpless and forlorn. Such a one was Christ who put contempt upon all worldly glory and He teaches us to slight it too. Since His own received Him not, let us not think it strange if they receive us not.”
Many times the thought has passed through my mind, “Didn’t the innkeeper have a bed that could be used for Mary and her new born baby?” “What would make the innkeeper relegate a young mother to a dirty barn?”
Yet as I’ve thought about the careless way the baby Jesus was treated, I’ve had to look deeply into my heart where in honesty I’ve recognized some of the same careless traits that push Jesus away because I’m too busy to make room for Him. In one of her thought-provoking prayer/poems, author Ruth Harms Calkin helps us reflect on the Christmas thought, “There Is Room”:
“You know how it happened, Lord;
She said, ‘May I live with you;
Just a little while?
I have no place to go.
I hastily glanced at the small room.
I thought of other rooms
Smaller and extremely crowded.
I said, ‘You see my small house.
There is really no room.
But I have room in my heart
I’ll make phone calls
There must be a family somewhere…’
That was this morning, Lord.
All day long
Then You accomplished
What I cannot explain
Through the hours
You pushed back the walls
Until suddenly, tonight
There is room for her in my house
As well as in my heart
You are indeed a Master Builder.”
During the coming days, may we remember the family that arrived at the inn and were told, “The sign says ‘No Vacancy!’” Let’s remember to make a place for Jesus in our world today and everyday. Several years ago, as I was reading through a number of poems penned by Christina Rossetti during the 1800’s, I came to her famed poem called “In the Bleak Mid-Winter,” which ends with this stanza that I now include in my daily prayer time as my personal reminder to keep my heart open to the presence of Jesus:
“What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.”
“It’s Christmas, Lord
It’s Your birthday
What can I give You
You who have given
So much to me?
I search and search
Through my talents
But will all my searching
I find nothing new
Whatever I could offer
Is always that
Which You have first
And no in the soft silence
I hear You say
What I want from you
Ruth Harms Calkin
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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