7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
Of all the words that Luke wrote none have captured the hearts and minds of people quite like verse 7, chapter 2, when he said, “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.”
You know that this is an excerpt from the Christmas story, a simple but beautiful account of the coming of Jesus into the world. It started a long time ago as the prophets were told of the coming Messiah—the Savior, the King of Kings. Then in the fullness of time an angel appeared to a young Jewish maiden named Mary and said that she was to conceive by the Holy Ghost and bear a child whose name would be Jesus.
Now, Mary and Joseph were engaged, not yet married, when the word came to her that she would have a child. In our day and time we would hardly lift an eyebrow at an unmarried young lady having a baby. But it was almost unheard of in that first century. And according to the Jewish law Joseph would have been disgraced by this since the child was not his. He had every right according to the law to stone Mary to death. But the angel of the Lord spoke to Joseph also and told him that the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit, that this was the work of God. And Joseph being a man of righteousness, a just man, ran the risk of shame and disgrace and took Mary as his wife and became the father of the child.
When the time was right God set all the wheels of worldly government in motion to get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem so that Jesus could be born there as the prophets had foretold. So the scriptures tell us in this passage that in the days when Caesar Augustus ruled the Roman Empire there went out a decree to all the world to be taxed. And the decree said that every man should return to the place of his birth to enroll for the taxation. And so Mary and Joseph left Nazareth in Galilee up in the north and traveled south down to Judea to the city of Bethlehem.
And it was while they were there that the time arrived for the baby to be born. The Bible says, “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” The part of that verse that I want you to focus on is at the end: “There was no room for them in the inn.”
These words, more than any other in the verse, have captured the hearts of all kinds of people because we have seen in that crowded inn an eternal parable of the human soul. The fact that there was no room for Jesus in the inn is symbolic of what was to happen to Jesus throughout all of his life and all of his ministry. He was to be rejected, turned aside, and to hear again and again, “There is no room for you here.”
John tells us in the first chapter of his gospel in verses 11-12, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.” He came to his own people; his own people rejected him. No room in their houses. No room in their society. No room in their religious system for the Son of God. He came to his own and his own received him not. No room for Jesus.
John tells us later on in his gospel in chapter 3, after he has given us that marvelous verse of scripture, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” He then says, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). He expresses eternal conflict between light and darkness, right and wrong—God and Satan. And even though God so loved the world that he gave his own begotten Son, men love darkness rather than light. So they have rejected the Son of God.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus is being tried by Pilate. And after careful investigation Pilate says, “I find no fault in this man. Nothing wrong in his life. Nothing to be of condemnation.” So he turned to the mob that had brought Jesus there to ask, “What do you want to do with Jesus?” And in verse 22 of Matthew 27, Pilate said unto them, “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?”
You might expect the people to say, “Well, save him, release him, turn him lose, let him rule over us.” Instead they cry out and say to him, “Let him be crucified.” There was no room for Jesus in their hearts and lives. Again he was rejected.
It seems as though the only place that there was room for Jesus in the first century was on the cross. The one place where there was plenty of room was to nail him to that cross for us. And even though he was rejected by his own, and even though he is rejected again and again, John tells us in Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
Here then is Jesus coming the first time to Bethlehem, but coming again and again in his earthly ministry. And then coming repeatedly in history and in your life and mine and discovering there is no room for him in our lives. Rejected, shut out, and turned aside has been the repeated experience of the Son of God. The fact is that from the very beginning Jesus Christ has sought a place in our lives. But because our lives are overcrowded, because other things occupy too much space, he has heard us say again and again, “There is no room for you in my life.”
Why do men reject Christ? Why do people shut him out? Why is it that there is no room in our lives, in our world, in our hearts for Jesus Christ? Why is he so often rejected? There are several reasons.
The first is that sometimes he is rejected because of the overcrowding of our lives. Have you ever tried to place a long-distance call, heard a busy signal on the other end of the line and the operator breaks in to say, “I’m sorry, sir, but the circuits are busy”? A telephone circuit is made to handle only a certain number of calls. When more calls than that are placed, a busy signal comes back. There is no room, the call can’t go through. Your call is rejected because the line is overcrowded.
Have you ever stopped at a motel late at night to get a room and the clerk said to you, “I’m sorry, we have no vacancies”? Overbooked, overcrowded, no room for you.
Have you ever gone to catch a plane to discover that the airline had overbooked the flight and to their chagrin everybody booked on the flight had shown up? So there is no room for you and they were willing to put you on standby, maybe to catch the next plane if there is room on it, but they simply had overbooked and were overcrowded and there is no room for you.
That very well may be what happened that first Christmas. The innkeeper simply had an overcrowded inn and there was no room for Jesus to stay. The fact that he turned them aside did not mean that there was any ill will toward Jesus. No animosity toward him. It was a simple fact that there were only a certain number of rooms. Now if Mary and Joseph had come sooner, if they had preceded other guests, there may have been room for them in the inn. But since they came later, since the rooms were already occupied, the innkeeper had no choice to say, “Sir, there are no available rooms for you.” But what Jesus experienced in that first century is what he oftentimes experienced when he comes to us today. He finds our lives overbooked, overcrowded, all the circuits full and there is no place, no room for him in our lives.
I caution you about an overcrowded life—piling your lives with so many things that there is no room for the Son of God. Jesus told us that might very well happen. You remember the story of the man who gave a feast and invited many. The host represents God; the feast represents the eternal offer of God to come and fellowship with him. And when everything is ready he sent out word to those who had previously been notified of the feast saying that everything was ready. “We want you to come,” he said. And yet they had to make excuses. One man said, “I’ve bought a piece of land; I need to go and look at it.” Another said, “I’ve bought a yoke of oxen; I must try them out.” Another said, “I got married. I can’t come.” For one reason or another they would not participate in that great festive event of salvation. And their excuse was simply because of other things. Their lives were overcrowded and they had no time for this.
It is a danger that we all face to so fill our lives with the many things that press upon us, the many things that clamor for our attention and our efforts and our energy and our money, that when Jesus the Son of God comes, bidding for a place in our lives, we must say to him, “There is only a certain amount of time, only a certain number of rooms and there is no more time or space for the Son of God.”
Jesus is sometimes rejected not just because our lives are overcrowded; sometimes he is rejected out of ignorance. We do not know who he is. That could very well be true of the first century; the innkeeper in all probability did not know who Jesus was. He did not know the magnificent event that was to take place there that night. If he had only known. But he didn’t know. And so out of ignorance he turned Jesus aside—out of ignorance he rejected the Son of God. That same kind of thing can happen in your life and in mine.
I read sometime ago in Reader’s Digest an article that was encouraging people to be creative, to be innovative, to be imaginative in dealing with various problems. And it suggested that if you go to a motel and the innkeeper says that they do not have any room, rather than just turning and walking away, use your imagination, be creative. The article said that most hotels and motels always save a few extra rooms for special guests, just in case. So you say to the innkeeper, “Do you mean to tell me that if President Reagan came here tonight asking for a room that you would turn him aside?” And the innkeeper will probably say, “Why, no, we wouldn’t turn President Regan away.” Then you say to the innkeeper, “Well, I don’t think he’s coming and I want the room you would give him.”
There is always room in our lives for people and for things that we count important. And if we know who Jesus is, and if we count Jesus as important, then we can manage somehow to find room for him in our lives. Our lives are never so crowded that there is not room for the Son of God if we know him to be the Son of God and if we want him in our lives.
Some people turn Jesus aside because their lives are overcrowded. Some turn him aside simply because they do know who he is. And some turn Jesus aside out of sheer rebellion. They recognize him. They know him to be the Son of God. But they are not willing to welcome him in. When he comes there is too much change that takes place in their lives. Too many things have to go out of their lives when Jesus comes. They are unwilling to make those sacrifices and to give up those things. So they simply say no to Jesus. They reject him. They have no room for him.
A good story that illustrates that is the story of the prodigal son. You know it is not merely the story of the prodigal son. It is the story in every man’s life. The young man came to his father and said, “I’m sick and tired of you trying to run my life. Telling me what to do, where to go, how to live, how to dress, how to keep my hair. I’m tired of that and if you’ll just give me my part of the family inheritance I’ll get out of this house and be out of your hair forever.” The father gave it to him and he took a trip into the far country. He left not because he had to, not because the father was a tyrant, but because he did not want his father in his life. He had no room for his father in his activities. And so he shut him out, closed the door to him. He rejected him out of sheer rebellion.
In the same manner, we oftentimes know who Jesus is and the place he ought to have in our lives. We know what is right. We know what is wrong. But unwilling to surrender a place to him, we turn him aside. We reject him out of rebellion.
Some people turn him aside because their lives are overcrowded. That is the danger for us. Some people turn him aside out of ignorance. They don’t know who he is. Most of us know who he is. And some people turn him aside out of rebellion. Too many changes must take place if we invite Jesus into our hearts.
Still others reject him out of neglect. They don’t intend to reject him forever. They just keep putting off the receiving of Jesus into their hearts and lives. They know it is a good thing and know it is the right thing. They fully intend to do it, but one of these days, not now. Some other time in the future at a more convenient time or season they’ll welcome him in. Not today. And so they go through life never making room for Jesus, but intending to eventually.
To decide not to decide about Jesus is a fatal mistake. For you do not have to make up your mind about Jesus, but you do have to make up your life. Life keeps going on and days pass into weeks and weeks into months and months into years and eventually life is come and gone and we stand before God and then the decision has been made. So ultimately and finally no person can brush Jesus Christ aside and say, “I will not decide about him.” For in not deciding you are deciding.
The only right decision is to make room for him. No matter how crowded your life is, throw some of the trivia out and give Jesus Christ the right place in your life. More important than your sins and the joy that you are finding in them is to give your life and heart to Jesus Christ. So while Satan’s motto is, “Some other time and some other place,” God keeps coming to us to say, “It is here and now that you need to decide for me.” And those who are tempted to have no room for Jesus in their lives because they do not want to decide here and now make the most tragic of all mistakes: assuming a tomorrow that may never come.
Why ought we to receive Jesus? Because he is the Savior. That’s what the angel said to the shepherds in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night: “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).
And because Jesus is the Savior, he is the one who can forgive the sins of the past. He is the one who can give us the assurance of heaven in the future. He is the one who can deliver us from the grip of sin and the power of sin in the here and now. It is because Jesus is the Savior, the Son of God, that we need to make room for him in our lives. When we do, we experience that good news and that joy that God intends for all people to have as Christ comes into our lives.
How do we receive Jesus if the world by and large has shut him out? If his own people would not receive him? If he stands at our heart’s door forbidden to come in, how do we receive Jesus? First, we recognize our sinfulness. And we confess that sin to God. We repent of it. We turn away from that sin and we put our faith and trust in Jesus as the Son of God, who not only was born in a manger, placed in a feeding trough, but he grew to manhood. He died on the cross for our sins, was buried in the tomb, and was resurrected from the grave. He is alive forever now and by faith and trust we receive him as our Lord and Savior. And when Jesus comes in, all things are made new again.
Christmas is not just a season. Christmas is an experience and it involves making room for Jesus in your life. We must receive him as Savior and keep walking with him, fellowshipping with him, and serving him.
What about you? Your heart? Your life? Your home? Your business? Your whole being? Does Jesus have a place in you, in it? If not, receive him today. Receive him as Savior, Lord, Master and take him as a partner in all of your life and you’ll know the joy and fullness that Christmas was intended to bring.