SUMMER PODCAST REBOOT – this episode was originally published at Christmas in 2019.
Hello and welcome to Friday’s podcast. My name is Abby and I’m part of the staff team here at STC, I work on the comms team one day a week and the rest of the week I have a very different job, working in autism specialist student support.
It’s a real privilege to be sharing a thought for Christmas with you today. This week we’ve been reflecting on passages from the start of Luke which build up to the big event today, the birth of Jesus. The reading at the end of this podcast is from Luke chapter 2, verses 1-7, and today I particularly want to focus on verses 6 and 7 which say: ‘While they were there (that’s Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem), 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.’
It’s so easy to skim over these two small verses and yet they capture a moment that changed the course of history – the moment that God, through the birth of Jesus, came to dwell among His people and to restore us to right relationship with Him.
For me, the lyrics from the song ‘O Holy Night’ capture some sense of this holy moment: “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn, fall on your knees, O hear the angels’ voices, O night divine, O night when Christ was born.”
It was a truly divine moment, however reflecting on these verses this week, I’ve been struck again by the fact that Jesus was born in a manger, a feeding trough for animals, because there was no guest room available for him, or, as lots of translations say, there was no room for them in the inn. This is the baby, who, in the verses from Isaiah that we read on Monday, is going to be called the ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ and who ‘will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness’. It is this baby’s life that starts in a manger, because there was no room anywhere else.
I think we often focus on the humble, servant-hearted, nature that God shows in coming to earth in human form, as a baby, and being born in a manger, and I think this is really true and definitely good to think about. However, as I’ve been reflecting again on these verses, I feel like God’s been challenging me from a different perspective.
Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem at an incredibly busy time – everyone had come back to their home town to register for the census – what if actually they were too busy to notice what was going on and to recognise that Jesus was coming? What if no one looked up long enough to realise that God was about to come and dwell among his people? What if they just didn’t choose to make room for Jesus and so he ended up in a manger? It’s sad to think about, but this leads me to have to ask myself, where have I not made room for Jesus? Where have I been too busy to recognise Him and what He’s doing? Where do I push Jesus out into the metaphorical stable?
As I’ve been asking God to show me where I need to make room for him, I’ve been thinking back over my last few months. In July I started studying again, part-time, alongside working full-time. I knew from the start that this was going to be a big commitment but I had it all mapped out on a piece of paper, how I was going to juggle two modules and what I needed to get done each month in order to fit in and complete my first three deadlines by December. However, a few weeks in and I was already off track, after a couple of months, I was definitely lagging far behind where I had wanted to be. By the grace of God I met the deadlines and have done okay so far, but it ended up being a much more stressful few months than I would have liked. As I’ve tried to reflect on what I can do differently next term, I’ve realised that in my perfect study plan, I just didn’t factor in life happening – the unexpected twists and turns that inevitably pop up, I hadn’t really left any room for. It has felt like in the past few months particularly, both in and outside of work, a lot of stuff has happened that has got in the way of studying as I would have liked to, and pushed it further out.
And I think this is a challenge in my walk with Jesus as well – I want to be more open to Him moving or speaking in unexpected ways, I don’t want to have everything planned out so carefully or packed in so tightly that there’s no room for God to suddenly turn up. Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem with Jesus about to be born and the people weren’t prepared to make space. So my question for us today is, are we ready for Jesus to turn up in whatever way he chooses, have we left enough room? Or are we pushing him out to the manger?
As well as a challenge though, these verses in Luke are also a prime example, I think, of God’s grace – even though, right from the very beginning, we didn’t make room for Jesus, that didn’t stop God from fulfilling his plan. The baby Jesus grew up to be the saviour of the world – God is still working, even when we might not let Him in – and that, for me, is hope this Christmas.
Lord Jesus, thank you for the gift of this day. We’re sorry for areas of our lives that might have come to mind where we haven’t fully let you in. Thank you that in your grace you are always working and I pray that we would allow you in afresh, to all of our lives today. Amen.
BIBLE READING: Luke 2:1-7
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 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.