Christmas has been a wonderful time of year for me. It always has, and I’ve always tried to keep up with the spirit of the season. This year I’ve been thinking a lot about the season. Not just because the media constantly keeps me abreast of the fighting over whether to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.” That’s pretty much taken a backseat in my thought processes. Nor have I been too distracted by the “Reason for the Season” crowd who make it a point to point out that writing X-mas takes Christ out of Christmas. I understand the early theological and linguistic reasoning behind the abbreviation. (X is the Greek letter chi which in the early days of the church was an abbreviation for Christ—being the first letter of His title “the Christ.”) I do find it interesting that some of these people find it offensive to even mention Santa Claus (a variation on St. Nicholas) while others have the red-suited, jolly old elf kneeling at the manger in their crèches.

 

No, today’s ponderings center on the inn where there wasn’t enough room. For years I’ve been in the camp that says, “Stop making the inn-keeper out to be a villain. He made room for the Christ to be born, didn’t he?” I’m still very much on this side of the fence because it’s good news! Good news, because when no one else was willing to open up even a dirty square on the floor for this refugee of a young man and his pregnant wife to bed down for the evening. Yes, it’s good news that even amid the hustle and bustle caused by the forced tax registration, this inn-keeper was able to carve out the most meager of accommodations for this young couple. And it was in his stable that God—the Creator of the universe—became a man in the form of His Son, the God/Man Jesus. Good News!

 

The trend today, though is to turn it into bad news. Bad news, because he could certainly see the condition of the young mother—ready to give birth at any moment—and all he could find was a stable out back. “Here, isn’t it magnanimous of me to provide a roof over your head?” The focus is on the place that was offered (not in the offering at all). It was most assuredly smelly, dark, noisy, dirty, the last place any modern mother would dream of giving birth. I’m not in total agreement with these people who have decided to re-vilify the inn-keeper for his choice, assuming that he could have possibly had a room, but the young couple most likely had no funds to pay for it, or that he should recognize that Mary was carrying the Savior and should have therefore unsettled one of the other clients to his little inn to make a comfortable spot. No, but there is value in the understanding of what the inn-keeper did and seeing that it is indeed bad news. You see, this is the same thing that we offer to Christ on a daily basis—our leftovers, the squeezed out spaces for Him to squeeze in. We offer to Him (who deserves the best of what we have) the least of what we can get away with giving. Church nurseries are filled with cast-off toys donated by people who wouldn’t let their children play with the broken things at home. Let’s get something better for the kids and give this worn-out plaything to the church—they can use it there. Church halls and educational buildings abound with pianos that won’t hold tune, but were given (after Aunt Suzy died) in honor of someone. Be sure to plaster it with a plaque so that it can never be removed from the premises, never mind that no one can worship to its off-key melodies. We have an example in Solomon who built the Temple of the Lord, all the while building a palace for himself that was much grander in its appearance and trappings. So daily we give to Christ the last instead of the best. Such Bad News.

 

Even so, it is good news once again. Good news, because the Christ to whom we offer our measly leftover lives takes what we do give and turns it into something spectacular. We give Him the stable out back and He makes Christmas. He blesses it with a Star, announces it through angels, and opens the world for centuries of worship. As this year draws to a close and we look toward 2008 with great anticipation, determine to give of your best to the Christ of Christmas and of the Cross. And remember that He brings good news because even the best that we have to offer may be nothing more than a stable with a straw bed. And that’s Good News again!

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