Christmas Lights – Vacancy
If you look very closely at vintage hotels still sprinkled along old highways in America, you should see neon “No Vacancy” signs, or what’s left of them. At the risk of seeming too simplistic, allow me to explain how these ancient artifacts worked for those who are too young to remember. When rooms were available at a roadside hotel, the word “Vacancy” appeared. After the last room was rented the word “No” was added.
Unfortunately, a few hotel owners throughout history used the term “No Vacancy” to discriminate against people they didn’t like. Customers were told there were no vacancies, even though the sign outside indicated otherwise. It is human nature to open doors to those we accept, and close them to those we don’t.
When Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem for a census, all accommodations were taken. Or were they? Someone might possibly have been able to squeeze in a couple of late-comers. But a pregnant woman ready to give birth was another story.
Some have suggested, since Bethlehem was Joseph and Mary’s ancestral town, there might have been family members there who were aware of their unusual circumstances. Mary had become pregnant prior to her wedding day, and upon hearing the news Joseph almost dismissed her. An angel appeared and convinced him otherwise, but it is possible there were people in Bethlehem who were not so understanding.
All we are told in the Bible is that Jesus was born in close proximity to a manger, and that there was no room in the inn. The nature of the inn or the conversations that took place as Joseph tried to secure lodging is a matter of silence. We don’t have enough information to say an official innkeeper turned Jesus away, or that the manger was in an active stable. It is also possible Jesus was born in an addition to a home where people were known to keep their animals.
What we can say for certain is the town of Bethlehem as a whole failed to embrace Jesus, either because they had little choice, or because of personal prejudice. God’s Peace had entered the world, but the hectic vibe of a community in census mode missed Him.
The reception Bethlehem gave Jesus offers several parallels for our modern culture. Even today, some acknowledge His Messianic claims, but reject Him. Others ignore Him as a religious relic. But the end result is the same: those who fail to embrace Jesus live and sometimes die without peace; without The Peace.
Please don’t misunderstand. Even followers of Jesus experience anxiety. If you don’t believe me, ask a store clerk working overtime during the Christmas seasons, or parents who have to figure out how to be at three of their children’s Christmas events at the same time. Talk to a patient whose doctor just delivered some bad news or a breadwinner who has just lost his job. Peace does not make us immune from anxiety.
But it does put life in perspective. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33b) The peace Jesus offers removes our sin and restores our fellowship with God. His victory over Satan proves we have nothing to fear in this world. And as The Peace of God, He transforms our hearts and helps us heal relationships with others on earth.
When we have God’s peace within, we can face the world’s chaos without. We should embrace Jesus, and put aside anything that suggests our lives are too full to make room for His presence. Peace must always have a place in our hearts. Maybe there was an official innkeeper in Bethlehem. Maybe there wasn’t. But we can all decide now whether or not we have a place for Jesus.
What was that? Did anyone hear a knock at the door? Let’s move some things around to make room. There’s still time!