Perhaps it's a sign of our times that we consider shelter a given. We don't even see the homeless along the byways anymore, and the news hour visions of refugees don't prick our consciences like they did a few months ago. Many of the world's people have no space to call their own and would happily view a modest trailer, or a shack, or a hut, as luxury accommodations. We could get into debates about whether distribution of housing is fair or if it's more virtuous to live minimalistically. I'll leave that discussion to the economics and political science talking heads. I have no doubt we could get into further argument about what Jesus would want. I'll leave that one alone, too. What I do know is that Jesus had firsthand experience with less than luxurious sleeping arrangements, starting with the place of his birth.
And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:6-7)
How could there not have been the tiniest little spot for this tired family to squeeze into in the inn? But in God's glorious will, Joseph and Mary were relegated to the stable, where a feeding trough sheltered the Messiah born that night. We love the story, the imagery, but do you realize it became a theme in the adult life of the Son of God? Later, even though Jesus grew up secure in the care of and under Joseph's roof, once he began his public itinerant ministry, he lived more the life of a vagabond than a established member of society.
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20)
I find it striking then, that at the end of his ministry, as he was wrapping up his time with his disciples before he went to the cross, Jesus assured them, "In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also." (John 14:2-3) He wandered about without a place to lay his head, yet, the first thing he promises his troubled disciples is not merely shelter, any shelter, but a room in the Father's house.
Although my Savior came to no room in the inn, he has gone on to prepare a room for me, where I will be with him. It's not just a room -- a designated space with measurements and coordinates -- where he will happen to also be. It's a lot more than that. He has prepared for me to be with him; HE is what makes up the features, the atmosphere, the feng shui of the room. HIM. He is home. He is thewhere of kicking off my shoes and settling down with a cuppa joe. He is comfort food, a soft blanket and a wagging tail at the door.
A popular saying at this time of year is, "Make room in your heart for Jesus." The truer saying is that "He has made room for us." And it's more: It's his Father's house, and in being with the Son, we receive all the same benefits that he gets as a Son.
Do you remember the residents of the Island of Misfit Toys from the animated TV show, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"? Dolly, and Charlie-in-the-box, and the Boomerang who wouldn't come back -- toys that weren't wanted because they didn't do what was expected of them, or they were a little different in their design, exiled to the Island of Misfit Toys where they waited and hoped for a chance to be enjoyed and appreciated and loved. However, the island was so far off course that they were forgotten year after year, and were never given the opportunity to brighten a child's Christmas morning.
Disappointments, slights, brokenness in life. Sometimes I echo Dolly's words when she says, "I just don't feel like I have any more hope left in me." My heart is troubled, and my coordinates don't register on the radar. I'm lost, with desperation rapidly closing in. How do I know he will come back for me, to take me to him? Hear Jesus's tender words of encouragement -- which come after his prediction that Simon Peter will fail and deny him, just as I do in my unbelief and discontentment: "Let not your hearts be troubled," and his exhortation is, "You believe in God? Believe also in me." (John 14:1) He doesn't leave us to our own devices or our own means of finding our way to him. He comes to dwell with us. He is our dwelling place, and his task now is preparing our eternal dwelling place for us. That's the hope he gives the disciples as their steps falter under the burden of their troubled hearts. "I go and prepare a place for you, [and] I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also."
We won't be left on this island of misfit toys forever. And that makes for a merry Christmas message!
You can follow all Laura's Advent season postings on her blog here.