Please take a step back to Christmas with me. We romanticize the Christmas story with Jesus being born in the manger because there was no room in the inn. I think the heart of every one of us skips a beat at the children’s Christmas pageant with our beloved kids acting out the Christmas story and gathering around a manger. My heart does.
Grumpy biblical scholars with nothing better to do say the Bible does not mean an inn nor a manger at all, nor a stable, but a guest room. To them I say, “Go back to the ivory tower and shut the door!” We’ll call you when we need you.
But here is a delightful twist. Daniel Harrell, editor of Christianity Today suggests we might substitute “garage” for “stable.” Okay! I love doing that stuff with the Bible. We call it “reconceptualization.” That big word means using modern points of reference familiar to us better to picture the Bible story. I do this a lot in my sermons, as you know. (And you haven’t asked me to leave yet.)
I like the image of the garage because I am a guy. I grew up in a split-level home in Bucks County, Pa. The garage was under the bedrooms which meant for one thing it was usually the coolest part of the house in July and August. Not only that, it had all the great stuff in it like lawn mowers, axes, partially empty paint cans and miscellaneous hand tools. It had a distinctive smell – carbon! Being a suburban boy born and raised, I loved the garage. By the way, there was no room in our garage for a car.
We love the stable image and the manger on Christmas. I have no trouble imagining an inn or house filled to the brim at Christmas for Caesar’s census and the owner saying, “Wait a minute. I have no room, but you are welcome to stay in the garage.”
How’s that for recontextualization?
We will have to rewrite the Christmas carols we love so much, things like “the cattle are lowing,” and images of sheep munching hay then sleeping. But I kind of fancy Jesus, Mary and Joseph making due with the only space available, the garage.
Maybe we put the baby Jesus in the seed spreader with bags of peat moss for bedding. I don’t know. But we accommodate him there.
We accommodate him.
Whatever the place was, his new space is in our heart and he has prepared a room for each one of us in heaven.
Also, we have a place for him in that gorgeous space at the corner of old Amwell and Millstone River Road.
Let’s pray. “Lord, time was there was no place for Jesus anywhere but a manger. It got worse. The world put him on a cross and then buried him, thinking they were finished with him. But you were not finished with us. You raised him, and now he sits at your right hand. We ask you to clear out a space for him in our hearts and asks that from that space he will reign over us until we move into our room in heaven. We ask in his name. Amen.”