Amazing. The most important event in human history was transpiring, and it is happening in a barn. Let that sink in for a moment. We tend to glamorize it today. We picture it as a quaint, quite comfortable setting today. We forget that it was a smelly, dirty and really quite uncomfortable situation for a young couple about to give birth to their first born son.
Leslie Leland Fields puts it into perspective when she writes, "Let the stable still astonish. Straw-dirt floor. Dull eyes, dirty flanks of donkey. Crumbling, crooked walls. No bed to carry that pain, and then the child-rag-wrapped and laid to cry in a trough. Who would have chosen this? Who would have said, ‘Yes, let the God of all of Heaven and earth be born here in this place?' Who but the same God who stands in the darker, fouler rooms of our hearts and says, ‘Yes, let the God of Heaven and earth be born in this place," (Karon, "Jan Patches of Godlight," Penguin Books, New York, NY 2001).
Now I can think of a number of reasons why there was no room back then. Two-thousand years ago this couple were unknowns. The baby about to be born, as far as anyone knew - except for Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth and Zachariah - was just another baby. While there was no room in the inn, the inn-keeper was not the heartless man we so often paint him to be; he at least permitted this couple to utilize his stable for the night.
Sadly, these 2,000 plus years later, even though we celebrate the birth of Christ, to so many people he is nothing more than an anonymous figure in history. They've never taken the time to get acquainted with the one who is central to the celebration. Like spoiled children at a birthday party, we want to enjoy the benefits of the party, but in our own selfish little minds, we make ourselves the center of the festivities, not the birthday boy.
Many who celebrate Christmas today enjoy the festivities of the party but care nothing about really knowing the one for whom the party has begun. There is no room in our celebration for any serious contemplation. We wish for "peace on earth," much like we wish on a star, hoping that it is possible, but believing in our hearts that it is really nothing but an empty wish.
The very reason there is no "peace on earth" today is because like the people of Jesus' day, we have purposefully and willfully rejected the Prince of Peace.
On that first Christmas, Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus were just another anonymous family - faces in the crowd. With that in mind, I can understand the inn-keepers actions, but what I find incredulous is the multitude of people today who prefer to keep Jesus anonymous, who know his claims, but refuse to face or acknowledge those claims.
I use to wonder how the Pharisees of old could see and experience what they saw and experienced yet still choose to find reasons to explain it all away and crucify the Son of God. Today the wonder is gone as I have observed men and women from all walks of life find convenient reasons to reject the son come to save us; people who would rather believe the myths made up in their own minds rather than accept the evidence of the eyewitnesses. No room then I can understand. No room now I cannot.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church. Write him at 11677 Brown Bridge Road Covington, 30016 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.