We crawled into Burlington to stop and eat. We hoped things would clear up. When we got back in the car we slowly resumed our trek; but the further we went, the worse it got. We made it another thirty miles to Goodland, Kansas, and decided not to press our luck. Three hours of a twenty hour trip had taken us seven — what a mess. But we were safe.
The first motel I pulled into was already booked. So was the next one. I felt a bit of a panic setting in. Then I remembered a story and shared a bit of insight: "Worst case scenario — if there's no room in a motel — we'll look for a barn with some hay." Karen shared a thought that is best not to repeat.
Sound familiar? You've heard the first century version. Joseph and Mary find their way into Bethlehem. Joseph goes from one inn to the next, knocking on the doors only to be turned away because there is no room.
Some embellish the story with snow fall and cold wind, even though Bethlehem is on the same parallel as Georgia and Arizona. Then the preacher tells you that the world did not receive Christ. It gave him a cold shoulder. It all sounds good until you really hear what Luke is telling us. He says:
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them (Luke 1:6-7 NIV).
Sounds a little different, doesn't it? Bethlehem was a small, one stoplight town and there is no evidence that there was ever any kind of traveler's inn there. Luke has a word for "inn" he could have used, but here he uses one that means "guest room."
Archaeological evidence tells us that homes in and around Bethlehem had caves at the back of their houses where they would keep their prized ox or beast of burden so that they would not get stolen. The guest room was at the front of the house and the animal shelter was at the back. Joseph and Mary apparently arrived too late to get the guest room. Animals are moved out, the blow-up mattress (or the first century equivalent) is moved in, and Jesus gets a manger as his first bed.
The birthing process was messy. Caves that housed animals were pretty messy, too. Kind of like our lives. And maybe that's the point Luke wanted to make all along. That Jesus is perfectly at home in our messy lives. We don't have to get everything cleaned up just right before he will come to us.
He did not come for the righteous, those who create an outward appearance that everything is put together just right. He came for the sinner, the messy, and the ragamuffins. Our rough edges do not bother Jesus. They bother us. We give up on ourselves and each other when God does not. Jesus traveled a large distance to be with you. Won't you find room for him in your life?
We finally found a place to stay at our third stop in Goodland. We nestled in, thankful for a simple bed and warm covers. And we awoke the next day to a bright sun and dry roads.
Ask Jesus to be born in your messy world. You'll wake up to Son-filled days, too.
Rick's new book, "ME Addiction: having it my way isn't so great after all," can be found at http://www.westbowpress.com or http://www.meaddictionstore.com