Where does HE fit into our Advent plans?
Delivered By
Pastor David Bauknight
Delivered On
December 19, 2018

The season of Advent is beginning anew. Advent is a season so full of tradition, so full of memory, so full of legend. It’s also a season so full, often over-full with the exhausting activity of keeping traditions, creating memories, and recalling legends. And as Advent begins, Luke comes to us as a kind of Christmas past holy spirit, bidding us to lay aside our Christmas lists, leave the half-trimmed tree, pause the holiday movie, dry our hands from washing cookie pans, and follow him. And as we do, all we see begins to swirl into unfamiliarity. Suddenly, we find ourselves standing in what we somehow know to be a small, ancient Palestinian village on an unusually starry night. The shapes and shadows of buildings look strange. The human and animal noises sound peculiar. The smell of smoky scents of fire, foods, burning oils, and manure are overwhelming at times. The utter absence of electric lighting is mystifying. We reach for our smartphone, and it’s dead. Luke leads us beyond the village and down a dark, twisting, rocky path to some ignored and ignoble spot where we suddenly come upon a sight that we find surprisingly disturbing. Not ten feet away, asleep on the ground, near a small fire that has burned down to embers, is a peasant girl. She has bits of straw in her long, messy, dark hair, and she is wrapped in dirty cloaks and a blanket. A split-second look tells us how difficult this night has been for her. She is so young. Even more distressing, we see beside her a small, crude, dirty feeding trough in which lays a sleeping newborn, wrapped tightly in unsanitary, blood-smeared cloths. We take a few tentative steps forward. We know this child, and we know this girl. But the scene is strange to us. It does not look anything like the manger scenes in the illustrated books and cards of our childhood or the ones neatly displayed in stores. Our Advent traditions did not prepare us for the earthy realness of the actual Advent. Mary is not alert. She’s bone-weary. No divine, heavenly glow emanates from the child. He is not even especially beautiful (Isaiah 53:2). In fact, there is nothing about this child to suggest the unfathomable mystery of who he is. We are unnerved to realize that, had we not already known, we would not have recognized him at all. This scene, the real Christmas, has nothing of the feeling of the Christmas we know. It has all the feel of undesired, desperate homelessness, more like a scene, we’d find under the Tyger River bridge than under our Christmas tree. We are hit with the shock of a truth we’ve known all our lives: This young girl just gave birth to a baby, The Baby, in a stinking hewed out rock of a barn! Our immediate gut response is pity and sadness. This poor girl and her baby! We know this story, but as we see it with our own eyes, it seems so wrong. Our impulse is to do something to help them. We look in disbelief at Luke. He, calmly looking from the child to us, quietly says, “There was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7). No place? No place other than a stinky hewed out rock of a barn for the Maker of the world? The cosmic inconsistency stuns us. “Surely we can find some room somewhere!” we respond. “Can you?” Luke replies. Then he turns and begins back up the path. We look back at the girl and the child, just as the Palestinian darkness begins to swirl with a familiar light. Suddenly, we find ourselves standing where Luke found us. We’re back with Christmas lists in hand, the half-trimmed tree, the holiday movie paused, and pans in the sink. The familiar stress of the bustling schedule of Advent activities reawakens. But seared in our minds is the pathetic picture of the holy, homeless mother and child. Bustling Bethlehem had no room for the advent of Jesus! And echoing in our ears are our own words, “Surely we can find some room somewhere!” But can we? The real Christmas was nothing like the Christmas we’ve come to know, with its traditions, memories, and legends. It was a desperate moment that occurred for a desperate reason. John 1:14 reminds us, “The Word became flesh” so that the Word could become sin for condemned sinners like us and die for us that we might be made righteous through Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). He was born outside a village...and he died outside a city. “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him” (Jn 1:10). The Advent season begins again. Call to mind the only detail the Holy Spirit, inspired Luke to write about the actual birth of Jesus: Mary had to lay him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. It is no less ironic that Jesus can stand on the periphery of our busy Advent activities than the Son of David, lay in a manger in a hewed-out rock barn on the outer edge of the city of David. So, as we plan our Advent season, my prayer is “let every heart prepare him room.” Surely, we can find some room somewhere. May we sing anew, “Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown, when Thou camest to earth for me; but in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room for Thy holy nativity. O come to my heart, Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for Thee.”

Now let’s go and prepare so that He not only has room but reigns supremely in all our Advent plans and life,

Pastor David