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Are We too Full?

While they were there [in Bethlehem], the time came for her to give birth, and she gave birth to her Son, her firstborn; and she wrapped Him in [swaddling] cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no [private] room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:6-7 AMP

The World Descended

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire should be registered…Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant.

Luke 2:1; 4-5

We know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the city of His ancestor David. We understand the significance of the circumstances and we also know that this was a fulfillment of the prophecy spoken by Micah. (Mic. 5:2-5) But let’s look at this from a different view.

In those days, Israel was already under Roman rule. In an attempt to make it appear other than a complete Roman takeover, Herod was serving as a vassal king over Israel. Yet Herod still answered to Caesar Augustus, the first Roman Emperor. Because of this, Herod followed the order from Caesar to take census of the people.

According to God’s commandment, when a census was taken it was to be done with an offering to Him. That offering would go toward the upkeep of the Tent of Meetings and the livelihood of the Priests. (Ex. 30:12-16) The other most known census is the one David takes for his own knowledge, not for God’s glory. (2 Sam. 24:1; 1 Chron. 21:1-2) There was no offering for God, no provision provided for His priests or His dwelling place. When comparing Caesar’s census we can easily that it falls in line with the latter.

Later in His ministry, Jesus would tell the Pharisees and Herodians, “Give to Caesar’s what is Caesar’s. Give to God what is God’s.” (Mark 12:17) The problem with the census that Caesar ordered is that the people of Israel weren’t really his to number. They belonged to God and there was no contribution for God’s chosen dwelling place at that time. Yet while David’s census incited punishment for the people because it was done in sinful pride, God used Caesar’s census to bless the world.

A Place in the Inn.

So this census was ordered and thousands of people traveled all over the country to reach their ancestral birthplace. What Luke doesn’t really say is that Mary was also of the house and lineage of David. The reason though would be a legitimate one as women would not have been counted, so for her to travel with Joseph to Bethlehem was entirely her choice. She knew she was days away from giving birth and the journey from Galilee to Bethlehem was about 3-5 days. It also would not have been a very smooth one. She knew that if she remained in Nazareth, she would’ve given birth without Joseph by her side. I imagine that is something she did not want to do.

How many people were of the tribe of Judah, though? A lot and it wasn’t like today when you could make a reservation. It would have been first come first serve. By the time Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem there were no rooms available. They obviously didn’t have family there they could rely upon. One innkeeper took pity on them and gave them the only protected space he had available: inside a barn.

I think of this scene in the movie The Nativity Story. Of Joseph, played by Oscar Isaac, beating on doors begging for someone to provide a room as Mary endures harsh contractions. The people who answer tell him to go away, there is no room for you here. No one wants to give room to another person in need. The best they can be given is a place full of stinking animals. At least the hay was warm.

Had it been Caesar, Herod, or any other important worldly official, room would have been made. Yet the people looked and judged that the couple asking for protection had no significance to them. They were too full, too busy to note that heaven and earth were meeting at last. So once again, nature took on an important role of observing God’s miraculous works.

We are the Innkeepers.

If there was ever a time to make a comparison between us and the innkeepers, it would be in this season. We know that Jesus has come, that He is the reason we’re celebrating. We’re also busy rushing around making sure our To-Do and Gift lists are all checked off. We’re running around making plans with family and friends, making sure we have whatever we need to provide for our gatherings.

And Jesus is once more left out in the cold, worshipped by nature. We walk past that Reason for the Season sign like it’s just another lawn ornament instead of pausing and asking ourselves, Have I become like the innkeepers?

Have we let the order of the world descend upon us and fill us up? Have we let the mundane, the distractions, the symbols of earthly prosperity take our focus? Have we become so filled with worries over whether we’ll have enough earthly provisions or earthly safety as we travel that we forget Who holds our destiny in His hands? We attend a service and think that’s enough time given in acknowledging Him who we declare the Reason for the Season.

The innkeepers acknowledged Joseph and Mary, too. They just didn’t see them as important enough to make room. The difference between us and them? They had the luxury of not knowing the Son of God was being born. We don’t. Although, had they been in true relationship with God I’m sure they would’ve seen and recognized the sign and time. Maybe. They were as human as us and humankind is not infallible.

We are the innkeepers, the guardians of our hearts and lives. We are the ones who say what consumes our attention, what comes into our lives, and what doesn’t. True, we don’t control everything, but we do have say in what takes up residence.

We don’t have to be like those innkeepers who looked but did not see. We don’t have to be too full to invite Jesus in, to give Him the space and place that He deserves in our lives and heart. We don’t have to take a backseat to nature again.

Instead, we can open wide the doors of our heart and life. Shove around the things that are taking up too much space, and make room for Him. We don’t have to leave Jesus out in the cold, knocking on our doors, asking to come in. We don’t have to make Jesus an after-thought, the resident of the last tiny space we have available.

We can choose to let Jesus not only be the reason for the season but the reason for our life.

We don’t have to be too full.

Happy Wednesday!!

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