31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
January 2, 2022
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
“because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7) Over the years, these words from the gospel of Luke have been added to and expanded. The frowning innkeeper in the Christmas pageant shaking their head and saying “no room.” The image of a tired and dejected Mary and Joseph being forcibly turned away from shelter.
Over the years, people have read many things into these simple words, and yet, perhaps they were really just that simple. There was no place for them in the inn – not because they were young not because she was pregnant, not because they were ordinary people. There was no place for them in the inn because there was no room. Bethlehem was teaming with people and animals that night and for days afterward. All there because like Joseph they had come to be registered for taxation by the Roman Emperor.
Mary and Joseph were not disdained by the innkeeper. Mary and Joseph were not maliciously excluded because of their age or status in life, although perhaps if they had had money or stature, room might have been made. There simply was no room for them in the inn.
So what does God do? God makes space. God creates a place for them. God makes room. God makes room for Mary and Joseph.
Through the years, people have filled in the details about that room. Christmas cards and nativity sets imagine that place as a little barn with a manger/feeding trough in the center. Scholars speculate that the space was a cave on the hills outside Bethlehem.
The details don’t matter. What matters is the truth of the situation. When there was no place for them, God made room for Mary and Joseph.
And God kept welcoming in others, others who might have been intentionally excluded from the inn, even if there had been lots of room. Others like the shepherds tending their sheep on the fields around Bethlehem. Sheep are cute from a distance. They smell better from a distance too. Shepherds don’t have that luxury. To do their job, they have to be right up close, getting their hands figuratively and literally dirty. Even the kindest person would have had trouble holding their nose and welcoming in the shepherds.
God welcomes them regardless. The gospel of Luke tells us that the first announcement, the first noel of Christ’s birth came to these shepherds. These shepherds who were not welcomed by others were welcomed by God.
God expands the humble stable for the shepherds and expands it again to welcome travelers from the East. We assume three travelers because the gospel of Matthew speaks of the three gifts they bring. It could have been two wise men. It could have been five magi. It could even have been a multitude of astrologer kings. We have many names for them. Regardless of who they were, they were watching the skies with curiosity and when they saw something unexpected, when they saw this great star, they left their homes to see where it led them.
Hospitality is a value in many religious traditions and yet welcoming the stranger, the foreigner is not a practice of many cultures. And still, God welcomes in the magi, the wise men. God makes room for them, too.
God makes space for them in this humble stable; God creates a place for them around the Christ child, Emmanuel, God with us; God makes room.
What good news! What amazing, unbelievable awesome news! No matter our age, no matter where we have journeyed from, no matter what our job is, no matter what our nationality is, no matter our stature in society or bank account balance, God makes room for us. God creates a place for us around the Christ child, God’s love in human form.
God makes space for us in this humble stable, and God makes space for us at this humble table. No matter who we are or where we are on life’s journey, God welcomes us in. God welcomes us in to this community of Christ. God welcomes us to this holy meal of connection, connection with God and connection with others.
This is the good news of Christ’s birth, of God coming to earth in human form, that God’s love is for all of us. That even when the world says, ‘no offense but there simply isn’t room for you here’, God makes room. God welcomes us in and reminds us that we are important, that we are precious, that there is a place for us in Christ’s ever expanding stable. There is a seat for us at Christ’s ever expanding table.
No matter who we are or where we are on life’s journey, we are loved by God and welcomed in.