First Reading Isaiah 9:2-7
2The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness-on them light has shined…. 6For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Gospel Luke 2:1-14
1In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All went to their own towns to be registered. 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And 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.
8In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see-I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"
15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
If there’s anyone here who doesn’t know this story, I’m really glad that you’re here tonight. I hope you’ll leave your name and contact information on one of the visitor cards in the pew rack in front of you. I would love to hear your first impressions of this amazing story. If you’re new to the story of Jesus you have a unique contribution to make to the way we hear the story, because for many of us, it is so familiar it has lost some of its fire. Still, as familiar as this story is, God keeps opening our eyes to see different parts of it in a new way.
Last year in November I read all the Advent passages in a row to think about the big picture of Advent and Christmas. I remember coming to this passage and reading for the hundredth or thousandth time, “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.”
There I was, sitting on the carpeted floor of my office at home, when my voice broke and tears ran down my face. A pregnant woman travelling with her new husband was about to give birth, and there was no room for them in the inn. Christ the Lord came from heaven to save us, and there was no room for him in the inn.
I wept, but I certainly can’t judge, since I don’t always make room for Jesus either. How often do we lock Jesus out of our homes, out of our decisions, out of our hearts? How often are we the innkeeper who sees the young mother in need and decides not to make room? How often do we hear Christ knocking at the doors of our life and pretend we are not home? Why don’t we make room for Jesus? Why wasn’t there room for Christ at the inn?