“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”
When I was preparing this sermon that verse from St Luke Chapter 2 kept going around and around in my head. For some reason I could not let it go, especially the last phrase: “because there was no place for them in the inn”.
On reflection I think I know now why that verse was so prominent in my mind. For the last few weeks our son Aaron had been preparing for his role in his school nativity play in St. Anne’s: He only had two words to say – he was an innkeeper in
And so the Messiah, the Prince of Peace begins his life as a homeless person…..an invisible person….a person of no substance or worth…..an outcast!
It’s a strange celebration this time we call Christmas – we romanticize it and sanitize it – but in reality Jesus is born in chaos and squalour. The stable is a shed – it is probably cold and draughty, smelly and unhygienic - It’s a long way from a lot of the Christmas carols we sing!
Listening to Christmas music this year I have been struck by one song which while not overtly religious portrays more effectively than any other the brokenness that is an integral part of the Christmas story.
That song is not a new song, nor is it an ancient one: It is “Fairytale of New York’, sung by Shane McGowan & the late Kirsty MacColl which shows the ups and downs of the live of a young couple – high hopes and shattered dreams – its all there! And as the music fades we see in the accompanying video they are still dancing together through it all……somehow in their brokenness they find a way through. That irreligious song may in fact be far more religious that some of the pious sentiment in our traditional Christmas hymns and carols. They are beautiful and they are inspiring and they do add to our experience of Christmas but sometimes they only tell part of the story….they speak of the light but shy away from the darkness. And as we know the light is only the light when it illuminates the darkness!
And there is plenty of darkness in the Christmas story: Jesus is born in a shed to an underage mother…..his paternity seems to be a mater of some confusion….he is homeless and his parents will soon have to flee with him to escape Herod’s wrath….he is to be a refugee! It doesn’t get much more messed up than that – we love to talk today about dysfunctional families but Jesus’ early family circumstances leaves even the most unusual family I have ever encountered looking decidedly NORMAL!
And yet! With his birth nothing will ever be the same again……God has intervened in human history in the most concrete way possible by becoming as one of us! And who does he come as? ….. A King, a ruler, a great warrior, a wealthy businessman…….NONE of these! A homeless refugee! Just like the refugees of today who daily die in their thousands for want of food, medicine, shelter and safety! NO ROOM!
This is how Jesus first came into our lives and as he was ignored and despised by many then so today he would certainly have the same experience. Homeless people aren’t top of the list of the guests we invite to our homes and our hearts at Christmas or any other time of the year for that matter: NO ROOM!
I have been reading recently a book called THE IRRESISTABLE REVOLUTION by a young Christian called Shane Claiborne. He is a founder member of a modern monastic community in
And so they did - they brought in boxes of signs, fire-xtinguishers, smoke detectors and worked all night to get the building up to standard. The next day the fire
I don’t need to point to the terrible irony in that story – It is blindingly obvious!
And it is a caution for all of us who call ourselves religious that what we say with our lips is in harmony with what we do with our hands and feet. Are we as Church – as the people of God - able and willing to respond to the needs of the poor and abandoned, the marginalised and unloved? Are we prepared to do more than just dip our hands into our pockets and dispense loose change or are we really prepared to get our hands dirty and befriend and embrace the broken people we encounter at a distance? That is the uncomfortable implication of the circumstances of Jesus’ birth! Because of what God did in the squalour of that shed in poverty and depravity then God is calling us into those places of brokenness and ugliness to discover the beauty that is in every human being created in God’s image!
That is the Gospel of the Incarnation – It’s a big, big package, it breaks down doors, it takes risks, it demands our everything and our response can sadly only be NO ROOM unless we get rid of a lot of the worthless baggage and ballast that enslaves and traps us in lives of mediocrity and safety.
The Gospel is not safe, nor secure, not predictable nor tidy but it is life in all its extraordinary beauty, fragility and brokenness, epitomised in the birth of a helpless infant born in squalor and fear who can through weakness transform and beautify the most ugly parts of our lives.
Have we room?………Have you room in your hearts for HIM?