As I sat in the choir this morning I had a great view of our church nativity scene. It being the first Sunday of Advent, however, it was not what you might expect to see. There is a big lighted, open fronted, wooden barn. Inside there were a couple of sheep and a shepherd.
This is actually the most normal scene it could be. Most barns and stables are there for the farmers, in this case shepherds, to house their animals. Barns are not for people to stay in, and certainly not to be confused with maternity wards! Christmas Eve will see a young family move into the stable. How does this come to pass? They will be in the stable because there was no vacancy at any of the inns in Bethlehem.
This is a pretty familiar story isn’t it? I wonder if there are vacancies in our hearts for the travelers, the tired, the poor, the displaced, and other folks in need in our communities and our world. In Bethlehem the inns were filled up with those people, in town for the census, without families with whom they could stay. Not only that, but they were the ones who had started out early, planned wisely, and traveled quickly. From many people’s perspective, Mary and Joseph brought their problems on themselves, they didn’t deserve a room since they didn’t have their acts together! Mary,however, was in no condition to travel more quickly.
How often do you hear people question whether or not the poor deserve our support. After all, “If they didn’t want to be poor they should get off their butts and get jobs!” When we feel this way, the rooms of our heart are all filled up with self-righteousness, pride, and prejudice. For those people most in need, their material help may lie with us, so we need to pray for help with clearing out those undesirable tenants. Remembering that we in no way deserve the grace of God, and that we constantly do things that make us less deserving, should be the humbling we need to remove the pride and self-righteousness. The only thing we can do to get rid of the prejudices taking up space in our hearts, is to learn about, and get to know those who need our help.