And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and place him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
At our house every year, we watch the movie “The Nativity Story” during the advent season. It’s a fun tradition we keep with some friends and their children on a Sunday afternoon, for a little advent respite from the busyness of the season. There is a scene in this movie that strikes me every time I watch it, right to the heart. Joseph and Mark make the long trek to Bethlehem, arriving in the dusk, the beginning of night. Mary simply says, “Joseph, the child is pressing.” The next thing you see is Mary, a woman very much in labor, breathing and struggling through. Joseph is running through the street of this tiny town yelling “Please, is there a place for us.” He knocks no doors, he lifts up Mary and carries her, as if to try to carry her very burden. He’s still knocking and yelling, “Please is there no place for us!” How appropriately Biblical. There is no place for them.
And in my heart every year I think, when I see this scene-
This should not be! Someone, find them a place! Someone, give them a room, sleep on a different pallet for the night for pity’s sake! Jesus needs a place to be born!
And I wonder, is this the way it had to be? Did God have a specific prophecy about Jesus needing to be born in a cave, in a stable, in a dank, dark place? Did God have a not directly prophesied big picture plan here for us to see Christ’s humility so very early on? Maybe, obviously it is useful for that. But is it necessary? Or is it just one more thing in this world that is just not as it should be…
There are so many things like the stable in our lives. So many things that just don’t seem right. They may not be deep injustices that need to be resolved and conflicted over and struggled through, but they are the smaller issues- the small slight from someone at church, the hurried words of someone just not thinking, or being in charge of the Christmas play for the thousandth time because no one else wants to do it, or calling someone in our family because evidentially it is just too much trouble for someone to be the person picking up the telephone first. I’m not sure what little things are in your life, but there are the things that yell – “This isn’t right! Does anyone have a place for me! Does anyone notice I’m trying so hard?!”
A few chapters later in Luke 9, Jesus himself tells us, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Things are not has they should be still, for Jesus. Born in a manger, sojourning with us for 33 years, to walk the path to the cross. Nothing with beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, no place for Him.
So, how do we respond when we get the slight or the frustration or all the small issues that just should not be? We pick up, we move on, we give new birth and new life to the situation by God’s grace and power and mercy. Because our caves, our stables, are to God still a thing of beauty, because they contain our Savior shining brightly in the midst of the darkness, in the dankness of every situation.
What are you struggling with this advent season? Bring it to the Lord. He always has a place for us. Let’s share the small burdens together. He makes room in our hearts for each one of us to share the journey together.