We all know what it feels like to be on the outside looking in. To be the last one picked for a playground game of basketball. Or to be leered at by laughing eyes because of some physical characteristic that is beyond our control.
Those are inevitably times of isolation and doubt – times that leave us wondering about our value and our worth.
And yet we’re neither the first nor the last to ever encounter the outside-looking-in syndrome. In fact, in Scripture we find that Joseph and Mary knew all too well what it meant to be left out, to be turned away, to be scurried along. They had trekked the arduous seventy mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem as part of a census issued by the Roman government. As such, it wasn’t so much an option as it was a heavy handed requirement.
And the journey was even more complicated because Mary was pregnant and was closing in rapidly on the delivery date of her first child. It’s not difficult to imagine the frustrations that must have crept into her mind – a young, first time mother traveling literally dozens of dusty miles and a handful of days either by foot (or perhaps the traditional donkey) to a city that was not her home.
And though Joseph and Mary were pledged to be married, the ceremony had not yet taken place, meaning that there was a certain stigma attached to their situation even though it was a miraculous God event that had happened in their midst.
Upon arriving in Bethlehem, which was basically the hometown of Joseph’s family, they quickly found doors closed and no vacancy signs lit, partly because the city was overcrowded with people and perhaps even more so because their entangled situation was an embarrassment to anyone who called them relatives.
And so after seventy miles of unpaved roads and labor pains, Joseph and Mary settled down for the evening in the only place deemed acceptable for such a motley crew of two soon to become three. Scripture refers to it simply as “there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7). And yet there’s a lot encased in that simple statement upon realizing to whom the “them” is actually referring. Young couple. Unmarried. With child.
In a city bustling with Joseph’s long lost cousins, maternal aunts, fraternal uncles, nephews, nieces, and grandparents galore, no one bothered to look and help. Or perhaps they did look and intentionally decided not to help, because the stigma attached to this young couple given their struggling situation was as magnified as the pride of both close and distant relatives alike.
And not even the imminent delivery of a tired and searching young lady could soften their hearts. There was no room for Mary, for Joseph, or even for Christ. Doors were closed. Lights were out. Tongues were surely talking. On this night.
Which is all a good reminder for us this Christmas.
How easy it us for us to not find room for Christ even at Christmas? Would we have missed out on that first Christmas as did so many? Or can we see God working through seemingly impossible situations and settings? Can we recognize Him doing something remarkably beautiful in even a dire dilemma?
There was no room for them that night. No room even for the glorious birth of Christ. Make it your prayer that there will always be room for what God wants to do in your life. Of how God wants to make Himself known in your midst. Even if it doesn’t quite fit your preconceived notions or initial impressions.