One of the first summers after college graduation, my college roomie, Trish and I went to a friend’s wedding. Following we decided on an impromptu trip to Niagara Falls, Canada. It was around fourth of July weekend, but we thought, oh well, we are going to another country, Canada, so what does that matter. Well, turns out it mattered a lot. July 1 is a federal holiday in Canada, called Canada Day. Originally Dominion Day, Canada Day celebrates the creation of the dominion of Canada through the British North America Act on 1 July 1867, uniting three British territories — the Province of Canada (southern Ontario and southern Quebec), Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick — into a federation. So it was a major holiday in Canada, too.
We should have known it was a bad sign when we get in the wrong line at border customs. (I wasn’t driving!) We are in the tractor-trailer line, so the booth is way up high, so the customs officer is asking what our business in Canada is and Trish is yelling way up to him.
We arrive in Niagara Falls in late evening. The traffic is horrible. We have no real destination, except finding a hotel. But every hotel, says no room, "No Vacancy." We drive around and around, but it is useless, there is no room anywhere to be found.
We do see the Falls by night, but we are exhausted, so it’s really no big highlight to the trip. We pull in a parking lot at some park and wonder, “Can we just sleep in the car right here for awhile.” But soon some police officer taps on our window and asks, “Drinking tonight ladies?” And we giggle and tell our story and it is so insane I think the officer really believes us. But he also says we can’t stay in the park all night. Trish and I decide, if drinking is that big of a problem, we don’t want to stay in the park all night.
So we decide to cross the border back into the US and maybe we can find a room there. So we go across the border through customs again. We are asked, "Did you buy anything?" "No." "How long were you there?" Oh, maybe a few hours," we answer. We can’t help but laugh through the entire interview.
So we begin driving south. Still, no rooms available. We drive further and further south. No room. Pretty soon we decide we are not even going back north again. Driving and driving. Finally, across the border into PA we come again and we are able to find a room in Erie, PA. The next day we get to see Lake Erie instead of Niagara Falls.
It is not a good feeling to be exhausted and to be in a strange place and have no place to stay, no place to rest.
It makes you wonder what Mary and Joseph felt like that night they entered Bethlehem. They had to journey a distance, not for a vacation, not for fun, but because the government ordered them to do so. Caesar Augustus wanted to take a census and everyone had to return to the hometown of their ancestors. So Joseph and Mary, now very much with child, set off from Galilee to Bethlehem. It is about a 70 mile trip, as the bird’s fly, and would have taken 3-4 days or as much as a week’s traveling time. (http://www.btinternet.com/~prgreetham/Wisemen/ana2.html)
I’m sure Mary (and Joseph) were quite more exhausted than Trish and I were in Niagara. And they can find no room in which to stay.
You know how the story goes. They must be in Bethlehem. They can’t turn around and find another place. They don’t have the quickness of travel that we have, so that they can turn around and eventually find a room. You can’t very well sleep on a donkey or whatever mode of transportation they had. And don’t forget: Mary is very pregnant. Perhaps she is saying to Joseph, “I think it’s time, Joseph. We have to find some place.” Or “My water just broke.” Where do they go? What do they do?
Since Joseph is returning to the home of his ancestors, many believe that he (and other relatives) would have returned to an ancestral home. This may have been like a big family reunion. But still there was no room. But, Joseph is given a little shelter. A stable, some say a barn, early tradition says a cave. A place to get in out of the weather and a place for Mary to give birth, to give birth to her firstborn, a son. And they had so little that she took pieces of cloth and wrapped around the baby who was named Jesus, for this one whom the angel said “will save his people from their sins”. She laid him in a manger, an animal’s feeding trough filled with animal food, hay, to soften it.
Such is the story of our Savior’s birth. But unfortunately Jesus still hears us say today, “There is no room.”
The scriptures say, “Behold I stand at the door and knock” (Rev. 3.20). He knocks on our heart’s door, asking to come in, but too many times, our response is, “No room.” There’s no room in my day today. I have my schedule made out already: I’m going here and there and have this and this to do. Not right now God. There just is no room.
So we respond when he calls us to pray, when he calls us away for some special time of conversation.
So we respond we when we see someone in need. No room today!
Our hearts are too full. Our schedules are too full. Our budgets are too full. We are already committed to too many other things. Our priorities have already been established. “No room,” we say.
Will we make room, this Advent Season? Will we make room in our hearts? You know our hearts our still considered the seat of our passions, the center of that which is most important to us. Will we make room for Christ? Maybe you want to invite him into your life for the first time? Maybe you want to recommit your life to him? Maybe Christ is calling you to find 10 minutes where you can slip away and be in his presence, just 10 minutes to make room for him in this Advent Season? Maybe it is to commit 10 minutes to your children pointing them to the true meaning of this Advent Season?
As these four weeks progress, you will have to make some choices. One of those choices is what is our Christmas Day schedule going to look like this year? Christmas Day is on Sunday. Will we make room for Christ on Christmas Day? Will our family make room for worship on this special holy day?
And as you go about your Christmas shopping, will you make room for the less fortunate? Actually you may recall that the figure of Santa Clause was first found in that of Saint Nicholas who in the 4th Century was a Saint in the Church and in what is now Turkey, he went around secretly giving gifts to those who were in need, most often these gifts were to children.
We are presenting an opportunity for you to give a gift to children in need. This Christmas Eve and Christmas Day you are invited to “Give a gift to Jesus” by giving a gift to our local pregnancy center. As the Matthew 25 passage says, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me.’ You are invited to bring a gift for some child whose mother was brave enough to choose life for her child and you can help them as they begin life together. My favorite gift listed is that of the receiving blanket. I think of Christ wrapped in rags, and to be able to give him that nice, soft blanket.
What will your choice be this Advent Season? Will you say, "No room" or will you make room?