I love the manger scene that I set up every Christmas. I spent several years looking for just the right figurines. Once I found them, my Dad made the stable for me so it is especially dear to my heart. When I set it up each year, I drape moss over the stable and situate all the figurines just so. When I’m done, it looks so warm and cozy, just like the picture I have in my mind of how that night must have looked. A smiling mother and father, a baby all bundled up in warm cloth, lying in a beautifully rustic manger with sweet clean animals all around. Such a beautiful scene… it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
After I finished setting it up this year, I stood back to look at it. Perfect. Everything in the right place, just like that night…or was it? As I thought about it, I realized that my manger scene was not reality. Reality is that an already exhausted and frightened Mary was forced to deliver her first child in a smelly, damp stable of some sort. She then wrapped him in strips of cloth and placed him in a feeding trough. Jesus was born in deplorable conditions all because there was no room in the inn for His parents.
I found myself disgusted with the innkeeper. What kind of person would turn a nine-month pregnant woman away? Who would do such a thing? Did his wife know what he had done? Probably not. Was he too busy making a profit to care about a woman in labor? If Mary and Joseph had been wealthy, I bet that the innkeeper would have found room for them. He had no idea who it was that he turned away that night.
The more I thought about the innkeeper, the more my heart softened towards him. I’m sure he was busy. Bethlehem was a very small town, but because of the census, it was packed. He probably had no idea things would be so crazy. I’m sure he himself was exhausted. If he had known that Mary was carrying the King of Kings, I feel certain that he would have made room.
I think maybe we have more in common with the innkeeper than we are comfortable admitting. This time of year is so busy, much like it was those many years ago in Bethlehem. There are gifts to buy, and gifts to wrap, and decorations to put up, and drop-ins to attend, and the list goes on. When Jesus looks into our lives, does He find that there is no room for Him in our hearts? Are our days so full and our lives so cluttered that there is no time for Him?
Unlike the innkeeper, I do know who the baby in that manger is, and because of that, I am going to be very intentional about making room for Him. If you want to join me, here is an idea that you might be interested in trying, maybe even encouraged the rest of your family to do it with you.
For the next few days, think about a special gift that you will give Jesus on Christmas day. No one else needs to know what it is. It needs to be a gift that cost you something – a sacrifice of sorts. It could be the gift of setting aside time every day for the next year to spend with Him. Maybe the gift of forgiveness extended to someone. Perhaps you could give the gift of turning from a habit that interferes with your walk with Him. There are plenty more gift ideas; pick the one that He would like most from you. If you’re not sure, just ask Him what He wants from you for his birthday.
Write down the gift on a slip of paper and wrap it, then place it under the tree with the rest of the gifts. On Christmas morning when everyone one is unwrapping presents, unwrap Jesus’s gift. Spend some time sharing what each one is giving Jesus for His birthday. Ask the others to help hold you accountable. If it’s too personal, just tuck the slip of paper some place where you will see it often throughout the coming year.
Have a wonderful Christmas!
"And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn." Luke 2:7
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