Others — Why The Inn was Full
By Larry Baker, CVCS Superintendent
We have been focused, this school year, on the theme of Others. No person in history embodied that theme better than Jesus, and Christmas is the perfect time to reflect on God’s gift to us and the example of selfless love demonstrated two thousand years ago, first in a hillside stable, and later on a hillside cross.
We often try to sanitize the Christmas story with warm scenes of the Child lying in a straw-filled manger, but even at his birth Christ demonstrated a willingness to make himself nothing and to associate with people of low position. Others.
In the summer of 2000, I stood on a hillside in Israel. I walked the path that Mary and Joseph likely walked on their way to Bethlehem. Our group also stopped and rested at a place where, over the years, sheep and other animals had congregated, rested, ate, drank, and did all the things that sheep and animals need to do after they eat and drink. The place where we stopped was probably not the exact location where Jesus was born, but with Bethlehem in view, we knew we were pretty close. It was not hard for me to picture a young couple, animals, and a trough from which the sheep could eat or drink. In my mind, I could see the baby being placed in that trough. It was easy to imagine the shepherds coming up the hill to see the strange sight, a baby in this place normally reserved for animals. My picture of that scene is now a little different than it used to be. It’s uglier. There is absolutely nothing cozy or pretty about Jesus lying in a manger. My picture is unsanitary, it’s downright filthy, and it smells.
Have you ever allowed yourself to imagine how God might have pulled that event off 2000 years later? Suppose Jesus was born in Visalia, this winter. Mary would still need to be a virgin. Joseph would faithfully be by her side as they looked for a place to bear her child. God would have made sure the hospitals were full. No homes would have room for them. Homes are too warm and comfortable. Mary and Joseph would have been led to a dumpster, maybe the one behind school. The dumpster would be mostly empty, but still very smelly and dirty. A cardboard box would be available in which to lay the child. A night crew of custodians would replace the shepherds as the ones sent by angels to find the child. They would find him wrapped in rags and lying in a dumpster, because there was no room in the hospitals. The three of them would be easy to spot. There would be no doubt this was the One of whom the angels spoke.
I hope that scene bothers you. It’s disgusting. Dumpsters are dirty. Rotten food and spoiled milk stink. It’s humiliating enough just to dig through a dumpster when you accidentally throw something away. Imagine having to bear a child in one. That scene should bother you, but it shouldn’t be any more troubling than the actual scene of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, and Jesus lying in a manger.
Why was there no room in the inn? Why no clean place for the King of the Universe to become human. Why shepherds? Why not influential people, people with means, people who could help spread the word and really get things done?
I don’t know.
I don’t know why Jesus was born in a stable, but I’m glad he was. I’m glad Mary was a virgin. I applaud Joseph for faithfully staying with her. God made sure that the shepherds were the first ones to visit. I like that part too. I like it all. I love every aspect of that whole event. I love it because I know God planned it, and he had a good reason behind every little detail.
There are people in our society who relate to shepherds. Their jobs seem mundane and unimportant. There are children born in bathrooms. Homeless men and women live in the streets, eat what we throw away, and sleep in gutters. When all the unimportant stuff like homes and yards, bank accounts and salaries, and jobs and hobbies are taken out of the picture, those men, women, and babies are just like us. They have names. They have thoughts and feelings. And they need Jesus. The baby that was laid in a manger, Jesus, the Creator of the World, the Savior of the human race, was willing to humble himself and become one of us. He was willing to be born in the likes of a dumpster. He wanted to be visited, first of all, by the night crew, the floor sweepers, the bathroom janitors. He became one of us and he came for all of us. That’s the message I hear from God when I read “and the inn was full.”
My prayer for each of you, this Christmas season, is that you would know and love this Baby, born in a “dumpster”, who came to save us. The King of kings came humbly. He came to serve. He came to associate with widows, orphans, cripples and foreigners – others. I pray that you would join us at CVC as we explore what it means to love Him, to serve Him, to worship Him, and to be like Him.
“Wonderful Counselor and Mighty God, we celebrate your coming to save, becoming a servant, and being made in human likeness. While it is easy to believe this was really a good camouflage, we rejoice that this was no disguise but your delight. Quiet us with your love that knows the vulnerability of human life – you’ve been through it all, taking to yourself a real human nature with all its weaknesses, all but the sin. Amen. —(Belgic Confession, Article 18)
[This content was originally sent to the CVC society via email on December 21, 2016.]
Wanting to take these words to heart, and explore what it means to love Christ and serve him? Inquire today!
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