I haven’t started shopping for gifts. Guys typically don’t start until the last minute, anyhow, but I haven’t even made a list. Can’t seem to get motivated.
Maybe it’s because our kids are more or less grown up — and, therefore, too cool to act excited about the big day — but have yet to produce grandchildren we can shower with gifts and hugs.
Maybe I’ve just become my father. After I reached the approximate age my kids are now, he used to grumble, “Can we just cancel Christmas this year?” At the time, I chided him for being such a Scrooge. Now I understand his weariness with the whole giving-getting business, if all it means is a boost for retail sales.
Or … maybe I have yet to prepare a place in the “guest room” of my life for Jesus, the promised Messiah.
“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,” reads the Christmas story in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 2:7, KJV). However, as Ben Witherington III noted in Christianity Today several years ago, the Greek word for “inn” Luke used in his account of Jesus’ birth, kataluma, also can be translated “guest room.”
Bethlehem was a “one-stoplight town,” Witherington wrote, and might not have had a separate inn for travelers — even during the time of Caesar Augustus’ great census. “Archeology shows that houses in Bethlehem and its vicinity often had caves [at] the back of the house where they kept their prized ox or beast of burden, lest it be stolen,” he reported. “The guest room was in the front of the house, the animal shelter in the back, and Joseph and Mary had come too late to get the guest room, so the [residents] did the best they could by putting them in the back of the house.”
Is that the best we can do today? Giving a quick nod toward the “true meaning of Christmas” while gorging ourselves on holiday diversions doesn’t even rise to the level of putting Jesus in the back room with the livestock, spiritually speaking.
Nothing brings me back to the truth of the first Christmas like reading the Gospel accounts of that silent, holy night, when the Lord entered space and time via the portal of a “one-stoplight town.” And nothing reminds me of the living truth of Christmas like accounts from missionaries and followers of Christ about ways Jesus is revealing Himself around the world today.