I heard it differently this year, this string of words which tell the whole story of the what and why and how of Jesus’ coming.
We were with our confirmation youth. We have been teaching worship this year and part of the experience has included having them actually lead worship with and for one another and their families every time we gather.
Since it is December, we did some teaching on Advent. When it came time to worship we had them reading scripture and prayers focusing on various members of those who would have gathered around that first manger so long ago.
And I heard it differently this time, spoken as it was in the faltering voice of a sixth grade girl:
“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.”
For this time I did not find myself thinking as I have, no doubt, preached countless times, about the ways in which we are called to ‘make room,’ although that is surely always our best response, our first call. This time I found myself thinking about all the times when there has been no place. And about how Jesus shows up there with and for those for whom there is no place.
I think of the so many I know whose grief is heavy in this season and how there seems to be ‘no room’ for their sadness in a season when everyone is expected to be so glad…
And the one who has lost a job or can’t get a job or can’t find their way to what sort of work would be best. For whom there is seemingly no ‘place.’
And the one who can’t make rent and is afraid of losing their home. For whom there may literally be ‘no place.’
And the one whose pay check won’t cover the added expenses of Christmas gifts and all the festivities. No place.
And the one whose parent or grandparent is ill and they have to choose between taking the time and going to the expense of coming to see him now, see her now, OR coming for the funeral when that becomes necessary. No place at all.
And the aging one who waits for the phone call, the visit… for whom, perhaps there has been ‘no place’ for quite some time.
Indeed, the one who is held up at the border with no safe place to call home;
The one living out her days in a refugee camp or a prison cell…
the one, the one, the one…
No place, no place, no place at all …
And yes, I think of my own self in 7th grade and how there was ‘no place’ in the hallway for the bullies were always waiting there. (Yes, surely it was my own self I heard reflected in the quiet voice of a middle school girl last week which had me sinking deep again into the sensation of what it is to have ‘no place.’)
I think of all of these and all of us and I think of Mary and Joseph and Jesus and how there was no place and so a place was made. And I think of how Jesus comes to places where there is no place in the usual, expected way and somehow still makes a place. How he always makes a place. And in doing so, ‘makes a place’ for those for whom there was ‘no place’ before.
And I think that while the prompting of the Christmas message this year for you and me may finally be to ‘make a place,’ first don’t you think it is for us to recognize those times and places for each of us when there was ‘no place’ and to sink deeply into the truth that Jesus came, Jesus always comes first and foremost for those for whom, like him, there was, there is no place? And then to encounter the world with a heart to see and respond to those who for whom ‘no place’ has yet been made?
Oh, I cannot help but wonder if perhaps the whole world starts to shift a little bit as you and I simply sink deep into this truth that…
God always finds a way to ‘make a place’ where there was no ‘place;’
And Jesus will surely come once more and again and again and take up residence ‘right next door’ if that is all ‘the place’ there is for him.
How indeed might our who world change if only our eyes, our ears, our hearts were open to this truth?
- As the angels were, who sang of his birth.
- As the shepherds were, who followed the sound of that song to Bethlehem.
- As Mary and Joseph surely were.
Where there is ‘no place’ is where Jesus comes.
- My words today speak to my own Advent yearning, for I have found myself standing more and more alongside those for whom there is ‘no place.’ With whom have you been standing this season for whom the promise that Jesus comes and ‘makes a place’ would be especially meaningful?
- When have you had the experience of not ‘having a place?’ How does having a sense of what that is deepen your own welcoming of Jesus who always ‘makes a place?’
- Where and how have you seen Jesus ‘making a place’ this year? How might you be part of ‘making a place’ for others and in doing so also ‘make a place for Jesus?’