December 24, 2019
There is nothing that brings a smile to the face quicker than a baby. Think about what it is like when a baby enters a room. The room fills with smiles. People want to see the baby up close, to hold it, to coo at it. Babies are a source of joy.
When I was a new mom, my grandmother was a resident a Parmly. Sometimes I’d visit her there at the nursing home bringing our daughter with. It took a while to get from the front door to my grandmother’s room because along the way people wanted me to stop so they could see the baby. People whose own bodies were failing them, whose memories were fading, whose lives were difficult in many ways, took such delight in seeing this new life with such hope and potential. As I walked through the halls of Parmly carrying this little baby, faces just lit up with joy. It brought me joy to see people perk up as the baby came near.
As we sing “Joy to the world, the Lord is come” it is a reminder of the joy that came with the birth of Jesus. The birth of that baby in Bethlehem brought joy to those whose lives he touched, even though their lives were difficult in many ways. But preparing room for Jesus in their lives wasn’t easy for anybody. There were sacrifices made for this child by each person who was part of that first Christmas.
Think about Mary. How do you prepare room for a child in your life when you are a child yourself, only 13 or 14 years old? Can you imagine being invited by an angel to become the mother of God’s son? What a big responsibility that was! What would Joseph think? What would her parents think? How would she provide for this child?
But Marytrusted that if God was asking her to do this, it would be okay. From the moment that Mary agreed to Gabriel’s invitation, her life would never be the same again. Her role as Jesus’ mother took her on a long journey to Bethlehem, where she gave birth in a barn. Shortly thereafter it caused her to flee as a refugee to Egypt, to escape Herod’s murderous plot. Over time it gave her the unique opportunity to raise the son of God as her own child. Did Mary have room in her life for Jesus? Oh yes. Her whole life revolved around making room for Jesus, and I believe she wouldn’t have changed a thing.
How about Joseph? What a shock it must have been to find his beloved Mary with child, knowing that he was not the father! Yet, Joseph found room in his life for this little baby. Joseph faithfully took on the role of earthly father to Jesus, loving him, providing for him, keeping him safe, teaching him the family trade and raising him in the faith. Joseph was a loving husband to Mary, and a great dad to Jesus. Whatever questions he may have had at first gave way to the love he felt for this child and its mother and the love and obedience he had for God.
The innkeeper literally had no room for Jesus. For the innkeeper, the presence of this pregnant couple knocking on his door must have been a big inconvenience. His inn was full. There simply was not another room. But how could he turn them away? He could see they were clearly in need of a place to stay, so he opened his barn to them. It was the right thing to do. He found room in the busyness of his life to let Jesus in.
The shepherds had flocks to care for. They had a job to do. They were responsible to see that their sheep were kept safe through the night. What if predators came and decided to have lamb for dinner? But you don’t get an angelic chorus every day! And the angels told them they brought news of great joy. So, they had to go see for themselves and find out about this baby.
The men from the East left the comforts of home and traveled a long distance to see this newborn king. They came to the manger by way of the star. It took a leap of faith to embark on such a journey. People must have thought they were crazy, setting off like that following a star without a clear destination. Yet over time they have come to be known as “wise.”
When the Wise Men encountered Herod, they realized that not everyone was as happy to find this king as they were. Some felt threatened by him. For some, Jesus is just too unsettling, too big a disruption in their lives. For Herod, there was no room for any other king, not even a baby, not even the Son of God.
Babies have a way of changing things. Once a baby enters your life, things are never the same again. Perhaps that is why God chose to come to earth as a baby – hungry, vulnerable, needing the love and care of those around him. The reality of this baby coming among them prompted people to prepare room for him in their lives. Although this baby was born over 2,000 years ago, that hasn’t changed. Jesus continues to ask us to prepare him room. Jesus comes amidst all that is already going on in our lives asking that we find room for him, and promising that as we do, it will bring us great joy.
What does it take for you to prepare room for Jesus in your life this Christmas?
Each of us comes here this evening with many things going on in our lives. Some may be joyous, like raising children or grandchildren, or doing work or hobbies we love to do. Even in the midst of a happy life finding room for Jesus can be a challenge. For many of us, the pace of life gets in the way of even noticing that Jesus was born or realizing what a difference that makes for us. How do we find time to worship and serve him when our lives are already full?
As God’s people today, that really is a challenge. Finding time to pray, or read the Bible, or come to worship can be hard. We have a lot of things competing for our time and attention. Good things. Yet what could be more important? The God of the Universe has invited us into relationship with him. It is up to us to respond. It is up to us to find room for Jesus in our lives.
What does it take for you to prepare room for Jesus if you are going through a tough time?
Many of us are dealing with sorrows. Some are facing health challenges. Others are in grief over the loss of loved ones. Some are facing disappointments of things we had hoped for that have not come to pass. Others are dealing with the pain of broken relationships.
As we have focused on joy this Christmas season, for many life is anything but joyful. Whatever challenges life has brought your way, inviting Jesus to walk through it with you will give you more joy.
Jesus knew our human trials and tribulations because Jesus lived in a human body. Jesus grew up in a family with parents and siblings and Jesus was part of a community – with all the wonderful and stressful things that entails. Jesus knew friendship and betrayal. Jesus wept in grief at the death of a friend. Jesus knew hunger and thirst. Jesus knew pain – both physical and emotional. And Jesus knew joy.
Because Jesus lived in a human body, Jesus knows what human life is like. The almighty God understands the joys and the sorrows each one of us experience because God came to earth in the person of Jesus on that first Christmas.
There is a reason why Jesus came in human flesh. He came to be one of us so that we might know not only that can he raise us up to his level, but also that he can get down to ours.
Did you know that if you have two pianos in the same room, and a note is struck on one, that same note will vibrate on the other even though no one played that key? In music they call this “sympathetic resonance.”
When Jesus Christ came in in human form, he was like us in every way except that he had no sin. When a chord is struck in our heart, it resonates in his heart. There is no note of grief, sorrow, heartache, or pain, that can be struck on the instrument of our life that does not resound in his life as well. God knows what we’re going through and God knows how it feels. Through Jesus, God has first-hand experience living as one of us.
There is joy to the world this Christmas because God has come as one of us. He has come as love incarnate. The love of God was brought to life in that little baby born in Bethlehem, O so long ago. That love lives in each of our hearts today. That love saves us from our sin. That love makes it possible to be in relationship with the God of the universe. That love brings hope, peace, and joy this Christmas to all people for all eternity.
For that we can be truly joyful!
Thanks be to God!