Is There Room in Your Heart for Him?
What a special time of the year! Thanksgiving and Christmas are more precious to me than any other holidays, and they so beautifully go hand in hand.
More and more, Dr. Van Impe and I realize the importance of being grateful for the true essence of Christmas - that God became flesh. He came as a baby, humbling himself to a manger, and, one day, to Calvary's tree for you and me. Oh, what love!
I wonder if we can really understand the emotion in heaven and the joy here on earth as Mary and Joseph made their way to Bethlehem just prior to the birth of Christ.
Can you see them as they wearily make their way through the narrow streets of Bethlehem? Mary, tired from the long journey, sits on the little donkey as Joseph leads it along.
Their journey is almost over, and none too soon. They stop in front of one of the inns in Bethlehem. With a tender word, Joseph comforts his wife and then strides quickly toward the inn door.
Have you ever wondered what Mary was thinking as Joseph knocked at the innkeeper's door? Perhaps she was remembering what her cousin Elizabeth had said to her some time before. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance [fulfillment] of those things which were told her from the Lord. (Luke 1:42-45).
Mary knew how blessed she was, for out of all the women in the world, God had chosen her to give the world this baby; He was the Son of God, produced by the Holy Spirit, waiting to be born in Bethlehem (see Luke 1:35 and Hebrews 10:5).
Mary knew about the promise that foretold: But thou, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting (Micah 5:2).
Mary's mind didn't dare leap ahead to contemplate the rest of those words. It was enough for her to know that she was, at this very moment, in Bethlehem (ancestral home of King David, Joseph's forefather) and that her time to give birth was at hand.
Mary looked at Joseph, footsore and fatigued from walking alongside the donkey all the way so that she could ride. She knew how blessed she was to have this good and just man as her husband. He had handled the situation so well. He had shown her nothing but love and concern. More than once he had told her, "I know, beloved wife, that this child has been conceived in a special way. The angel laid all my fears to rest."
Joseph had learned of Mary's pregnancy after she returned from visiting Elizabeth. For six months, they had marveled at the conversations they each had with the angel. It must have been awesome for them, realizing that the Holy Ghost had visited Mary and that the child she carried was a divine original.
"Oh, Joseph," I can hear Mary saying, "He is to be called 'the Son of God'."
"Yes, Mary," Joseph responded, "and His name is to be called JESUS, for He shall save His people from their sins."
Did they recall the words of Isaiah? Did they repeat those names? Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel ... For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 7:14, 9:6).
Perhaps Mary remembered those conversations as her husband knocked at the innkeeper's door. She was so tired. The journey had been long and hard. But now, at last, they had arrived in Bethlehem.
For us, today, a journey to Bethlehem is still not easy. In the hustle and bustle of the season, there are many things to deter us. We've all heard that we should keep Christ in Christmas, but let's be sure that we keep ourselves in Christmas, as well! If we are not careful, we can become so busy with Yuletide activities that we are exhausted before we get to Bethlehem - and miss the real Christmas altogether.
Knock ... knock ... knock!
Joseph knocks at the innkeeper's door. A Baby is about to be born - the most important Baby ever to be born on this earth. "Let us in ... let Him in ... out of the cold and darkness of the night ." But the Bible tells us there was no room for them in the inn (Luke 2:7).
No room! Those are heart-rending words. Would we have said that? Yet, isn't it being said every day? We are all innkeepers, with room for many things, but do we have room for Him? In our lives - shabby stables that they are - He may be cradled, but we must give Him room.
Joseph, the rugged carpenter of Nazareth, a just man whose faith transcended his misgivings, enfolded Mary's helplessness in his strong arms as he lifted her off the back of the little donkey. Someone had tapped him on his sagging shoulders and said, "There is a place, if your wife won't mind. I know I can fix it and make it clean. It will be quiet there ... and warm."
Joseph had ministered to Mary's needs in that weary pilgrimage to Bethlehem; but his husbandly duties had not yet ended. Mary in a stable? The Son of God born in a barn? How his mind must have reeled. Remember, he was very human.
Husband, would you like for your wife to give birth to her firstborn in a stable? What lowly circumstances! The Lord of all heaven and earth was about to make His human presence known in the world - but in a barn? This was not the birthplace Joseph had imagined for JESUS.
Barns smell, not just of clean hay, but of animals. Barns are not always sanitary. Oh, the lovely Nativity scenes we see at Christmas do not begin to portray what Joseph and Mary must have experienced in those pre-birth moments, as they contemplated their plight.
One wishes we could push back the pages of time and make it different - different, perhaps, like the school Christmas play I heard about.
One little boy had been asked to play the role of the innkeeper; it was quite a challenge for him because he was a very excitable child - but his teachers wanted to include him. His parents, teachers and schoolmates were so pleased that he had this opportunity.
His were simple lines. When Joseph knocked at the door and asked for a room, he, the innkeeper, would say, "There is no room in the inn." Seven words. And that was all.
The big night came. Practice performances had gone well. Then came that moment.
Knock ... knock ... knock - Joseph knocks at the inn door. With great emotion and convincing reality, Joseph presents his case to the innkeeper. His wife is very pregnant. In fact, the baby is due any moment. Won't the innkeeper please let them in?
The little boy who had rehearsed his lines so very carefully, listened patiently, then said the seven words loud and clear: "There is no room in the inn."
Joseph turned, his shoulders sagging. But before he could leave, the innkeeper opened the door, thrust his head out, and said, loud and clear, "Wait ... wait! You can have my room."
It wasn't in the script. Nor was it in the script on that first Christmas. And so it was, that ... 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).
As we recall this short synopsis of the most beautiful story ever given from God, may your heart be reminded of the importance of remembering, not just the gifts that are to come, the families we are to see, and the loved ones we shall enjoy, but remembering the true message of Christmas - God's love for us. And may we not get so distracted by the many activities of the holiday season that we never even reach Bethlehem.
Dr. Van Impe and I are grateful for the opportunity to share the saving message of God's love for the world in these closing days of time. Thank you for your prayers and support.