I don’t know about you, but I have never been invited to go the the white house, much less the Governor’s Mansion. I haven’t been invited to go to lunch with any famous people and for some reason or another, when I make it into the newspaper, it’s usually because of a traffic violation.
My life is pretty mundane! You might feel the same way?
If so then you can understand the Christmas Story better than some. The Christmas story is full of normal people. Mary and Joseph were young people engaged to be married. They were also work-a-day people, struggling to make a living. Joseph was a carpenter, more comfortable covered in saw dust than the center of attention. Mary was a teenager, preparing for marriage, caught between the engagement and marriage vows. They were closer to the poverty line than most of us are and even though both of them could claim King David as an ancestor, 600 hundred years had passed since a blood relative had graced the halls of a castle or led the kingdom.
Other people were in charge and they lived nameless lives in small town Nowheresville (Nazareth).
They never got invited to statehouse dinners either. The only invitation they did receive was to attend a census meeting so bureaucrats could give them a number. Bureaucrats don’t understand things like impending births and because maternity leave was out of the question, Mary and Joseph had to hoof it (no pun intended) to the county seat, about 80 miles away.
Unfortunately, their Toyota Prius was on backorder for 2000 years so they had to walk for 4-5 days. Fortunately, to fulfill prophecy, Mary had to actually get to Bethlehem so having a baby on the road wasn’t a possibility.
In fact, the birth and Bethlehem were perfectly timed. Joseph had forgotten to make reservations at the local Hilton (typical man). No room at the inn, even for for a young girl in the first stage of labor.
No room! Even the Super 8 couldn’t keep the light on for them. Not even a walk-in closet could be spared? Nope!
Joseph found the last and most luxurious accommodation available. Oddly, the center piece was a feeding trough, which just happened to be a blessing in disguise. Maybe Mary didn’t notice that it wasn’t really a baby basinet?
While things were getting exciting for Joseph (he was getting ready to play catch after all), there just happened to be sheep and shepherds hanging out in a field nearby. They weren’t invited to the statehouse dinner either. Herod thought they smelled a little too much like sheep.
Some angels got lost somewhere between heaven and earth and decided to scare, I mean sing Halleluiah to shepherds. I’m sure some head angel thought it would be a great joke to make shepherds “quake at the sight.” After a song (and laugh) they were able to say, “Don’t be afraid! We’ve got some good news! Follow us and we’ll show you.”
The show wasn’t a show at all. It was a baby, and not just any baby, a gift from heaven had showed up in the most unlikely location.
Later that baby as a grown up Jesus would tell a story about a different kind of a King who did invite dignified and famous people to a party. A huge banquet had been prepared. Every detail and been thought of and no expense had been spared. On the day of the banquet excuses instead of people arrived. I am too busy, said one. Another party said, “I can’t make it this time. Maybe next?” “The football game is on at the same time,” said a third.
Everyone who had been invited, declined. The banquet hall was prepared and the guest rooms were ready. What to do?
The master of the house told his staff… “The party must go on… Go out an invite everyone who doesn’t usually get an invitation. Find people with and abundance of time, but no money. Find people whose legs might not work, but whose heart is good. Find people who can’t see, but still know how to feel. Find a couple of stinking shepherd too. They might like a warm room and good meal. In fact, look around in the alleys for some dumpster divers and box dwellers. Find the lost, the least, and the left-outs. We’re throwing a party!”
The people who were originally invited don’t realize what their missing. But there was more than enough room for everyone else.
The same person who told this story, Jesus, later said to his disciples.
“Don’t worry about the fact that you will never get invited a big earthly party at the castle, or the Hilton, Sheridan, or any other fancy Inn.There’s wasn’t room for me (at the inn) when I showed up either.
But know this. My Father’s house has many rooms. I can’t wait to show you. There’s nothing like it in this world.
I tell you what. I’m going to go get them ready. It’s going to be a blast. In fact, it’s going to be the biggest banquet ever thrown. Everyone’s invited, but most people won’t remember or will be too busy to accept. Which is a bummer, because they don’t realize what they’re missing. I’ll let you know when everything is ready. In fact, when everything is perfect prepared, I’ll come get you myself.”
You see that’s just the way it works. He showed up as a baby in our world, to invite us to His. He’s actually the owner of both, ours (earth) and heaven (his). Today we celebrate his birth. We do it during a season that we call Advent – a fancy word that remind us that he came. And we light candles. The candles around the edge of a Advent wreathe remind us of the fact that peace, joy, hope and love are present. The center candle reminds that they are present in a person, not a feeling. That person is Jesus, who the Bible says is the light of the World. Light penetrates the darkness.
Jesus’ good buddy John said about Jesus, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”
As we celebrate the birth of Christ, we can also celebrate the fact that our darkness has been penetrated by Jesus. The candle we hold on Christmas Eve is like an invitation to the party. The bible says that Jesus is the only True light and that his light gives light to everyone who is willing to accept it.
To everyone who accepts him, who believes in him, he gives an adoption certificate that says, “Child of God.” Amazing isn’t it. He came as a child to give us the title of child (of God).
Later he would give up his life so we could have life!