About 2,012 years ago, a 15-year-old girl named Mary, nine months pregnant,was traveling with her husband, Joseph, from Nazareth to the city of Bethlehem. They went to register for Caesar's newly decreed census and pay taxes.
With no paved roads, their trip was about 99 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. For both of them it must have been a long, difficult journey, but especially for Mary.
We can only imagine how carefully Joseph led the donkey over the rocky trails. No doubt, many times a day he asked Mary, "How do you feel?" "Are you in pain?" "Is it time?"
After what must have seemed an endless journey (how far can you travel on a donkey each day?), they reached Bethlehem. Mary was exhausted and her time was near. The tiny village was crowded; they were late in arriving, and there were no rooms available at the inn.
As far as we know, the innkeeper was a good man, he simply didn't have any rooms left. But he offered them the inn's stable to sleep in. And so the Son of God was born in a stable and cradled in a manger. Jesus began His life by being shut out.
"And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger (feeding trough), because there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:6-7).
You've heard the saying, "Wise men still seek Him." I have another one: "Foolish men still shut Him out." Some go to extremes in their hatred of God -- suing to get the Pledge of Allegiance banned from public schools and trying to get the words "In God We Trust" removed from our money. Some kill Christians.
But most who shut Christ out are not vicious people. They don't hate God. They don't deliberately shut Him out of their lives.
It's just that our livesare so crowded. We have so many interests, somany other ways we want to spend our time and money.
Like the innkeeper, we don't mean to shut Him out, but we do.
We still reserve the best of our time, affection and money for ourselves and our own concerns -- and we send the Son of God to the stable.
Christmas is a reminder of God's priority over our lives, and that we need to make room for the things of His Kingdom.
An anonymous poet once wrote:
"No room for Him," we grieve that it was so
And then we go, busy upon our way
With no more courtesy than they
Who turned our Lord away.
Our rooms are full, there is so much to do
Each day so new.
I wonder if the Lord of all
Is sad we grant Him space so small,
Less than a manger stall?
When we come together to worship God and hear His words, that is one way we make room for Christ, opening the door of our hearts to receive His love, forgiveness, healing, faith, hope and fellowship.
May this Christmas be the time that you decide to give some room in your heart to the Christ for whom the season is named.
The Rev. Anne Barber, is pastor of My Father's House, 7215 U.S. 301 N., Ellenton. For more information, visit www.myfathershouseinc.com.