In London, after the Second World War, you could find houses offering bed and breakfast. Some had handwritten notes in the windows saying: “No coloureds.” “No West Indians.” We wouldn’t tolerate that today, but we may have the same backward attitudes seen in Bethlehem at the first Christmas.
Barred in Bethlehem
Over two thousand years earlier, right across the Roman world, thousands of families took to the streets to look for a place to stay. The migration was caused by the Track and Trace scheme of Caesar Augustus, a vanity project that obliged citizens to register in the town where they were born. Amidst the chaos was a young couple; the woman was heavily pregnant with child. As they went from door-to-door in Bethlehem asking for a bed to rest, they were turned away. No one made room for them, until finally they were offered a stable.
A Disturbing Sign
Put yourself in the innkeepers’ shoes and you may sympathize with their actions. The town was packed. People were rushed off their feet. How could they know about the identity of Mary’s child? But Bethlehem was an ominous sign of things to come. The people who had no room for Christ the child went onto murder Christ their king. The serpent who breathed indifference into Bethlehem incited the killing at Calvary – and he lurks on our streets, breeding the same attitudes today.
A Replay Today
Perhaps it is our familiarity with the nativity story that prevents us from feeling the injustice of the events at Bethlehem. Perhaps the glitter of Christmas keeps us from being troubled by the same attitudes in our city. The windows in London may no longer display racist signs but the twinkling fairy lights might as well say, “No room for Christ.” “No God.” And no one bats an eyelid.
A Suffocating Christmas
Maybe we don’t feel the bite of Bethlehem because we read the nativity with an eye on others. “My door is open to Jesus,” we may think. But our houses may tell a different story. Christmas maybe cluttered with family, shopping, and entertainment. No space to wonder and pray like Mary. No time to seek Christ like the shepherds. No sacrifices like the men from the East. Our door maybe open but there is no room for Christ, except perhaps an infantilized Jesus in an outbuilding. We suffocate Christ under the weight of Christmas.
Listening to Christ
We only have 5 days to see the family this year at Christmas. We all want to shield our time, our families, and our comfort. Like Martha, we may protest that we are too busy with preparations. But remember the words of Christ: “Mary has chosen what is better” (Luke 10.42). She chose to sit and listen to Jesus. She sacrificed her time; she did not put her family or work first. She made room for the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, and he honoured her (Isaiah 9.6).
With Bethlehem in mind and advent nearly upon us, here’s some ideas to make room for Christ this Christmas:
To help us ‘fix our eyes’ on Christ Jesus, regulars at St George’s have been given short book of advent meditations called ‘Fixated’ by Tim Chester. There is a short passage to read from Hebrews in the Bible every day and then a reflection on Jesus. Why not read the advent story over the 24 days before Christmas. If you would like copies of Fixated, order these from 10ofthose.com or over the telephone on 0330 2233423.
It is nearly time for the school nativity play, if it can take place at all this year. Children love the story. Instead of simply getting a Cadbury’s chocolate advent calender for your kids or grand children, get the Real Advent Calender. As well as providing sweets, it tells the story of the birth of Jesus with a free booklet. Get the children to join in with our Nativity Christmas Card Competition. It’s a fun way of getting them to engage with the story. Entries close on 13th December.
Put the church Christmas services in your schedule. Churches have not been able to plan services in the same way this year because of government restrictions. Some of the arrangement may still be in the pipeline. But churches should be able to open during the Christmas period. Go along or at least watch the services online if you have to shield. Our Carol Service will be held online on 20th December at 6pm and our Christmas Day Service is at 10.30am in our building. Keep an eye on our website for more services.
Perhaps you are looking into the Christian faith. You want to find out more about Jesus and why Christains believe that he is the Christ, God’s great saviour. Why not consider trying out Christianity Explored in the new year. It is a video discussion evening that gives you an opportunity to look at the claims of Christ and examine the evidence for yourself. There is time to ask your questions. It is ideal for those who know nothing about the Bible or for those wanting to look at the basics again. Run by churches across the country, we hope to start in January over Zoom.
Christ is Emmanuel, God with us. Let’s make sure that we are with God this Christmas and that we make room for Christ.