2012 12-23 ‘Do You Have Room for Jesus’ (Selected Scriptures)


I. Introduction
NO VACANCY! Before I was ordained to the pastorate I spent over thirty years in industrial sales. I began traveling for a living in September of 1973. One of the first things I learned was that arriving in a strange city without a hotel reservation could be a real problem. As many of you know, it’s no fun getting somewhere late in the day, tired, and ready for a shower and a warm bed, only to find an endless string of “No Vacancy” signs. Another thing I learned, and this was especially true in small towns with small airports, car rental companies liked reservations, too. But that’s another story.

Two thousand years ago Joseph and his pregnant wife Mary had no reservation when they arrived in the little town of Bethlehem. Luke 2:7 tells us there was no vacancy at the local inn. We’ve made a lot of that over the centuries that have followed.

Stories have been told of a cold and unfeeling innkeeper, a city in which no one cared about the poor couple, and some kindly old man, young boy, or someone who directed the couple to a stable where Mary could give birth. How many times have you heard that they hardly had time to find shelter before Jesus came into this world?

As is so often the case with famous historical events, there’s as much fiction as fact in all of that. So let’s consider what we do know. Brett and Jordan have already read the Scripture for us. Both Joseph and Mary were descendants of David. That’s why the couple had come to Bethlehem in the first place. Remember that in Luke 2:1-2 Caesar Augustus had ordered an empire wide census.
*Luke 2:3-4
3 And all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city (the place from which their families or tribes had come)
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David.

We also know that Jesus was not born the night the couple arrived in town.
*Luke 2:6
6 And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for (Mary) to give birth.

So the couple had been in Bethlehem for at least two days before Jesus was born. But it could have been much longer, even two to three months. We just don’t know. But we do know that they would not have slept in the streets while waiting for Mary to give birth. Luke’s gospel simply states the fact that the inn was full. There is no indictment of any innkeeper in Luke’s account. In fact, there isn’t even any mention of an innkeeper.
Beyond that there is no indication that finding the stable was the culmination of a frantic late night search for shelter at the last moment. On the contrary, Luke’s description of the event is matter-of-fact, even understated, and quite calm. There’s not a hint of despera-tion or anxiety on the night of Jesus’ birth.
*Luke 2:7
7 And she gave birth to her first-born Son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

So there was no vacancy at the inn, no room for Jesus there, but there was room for Him somewhere in Bethlehem. Again I ask you to consider what we know of the culture of the day. When we do that, we quickly find that our preconceived ideas are often wrong, or at least somewhat stilted.

The word translated “inn” is “kataluma.” It means “a lodging place,” but the NT also uses that word to describe what you and I would think of as a guestroom in our homes. In fact, “kataluma” is used of the upper room where Jesus and His disciples shared the Passover meal the night before the Lord’s crucifixion.

In order to get a clearer picture of Bethlehem, we need to understand the culture in the Middle East in the first century. A respect for one’s heritage and hospitality were very important parts of that culture. It’s reasonable to assume that Joseph had family in Beth-lehem. If so, they would have been highly offended if he hadn’t sought shelter in their homes. Even if he had no known relatives there, he would have been welcome in Bethle-hem because of his ancestry. He was a son (a descendant) of King David.

If that isn’t sufficient evidence that the couple would have easily found shelter, Mary’s condition would have ensured it. The idea of a pregnant woman left out in the elements would have been unthinkable. It just wouldn’t have happened. And there is one other thing worth remembering. Mary was also descended from David, wasn’t she? You can be sure that Joseph and Mary were welcomed and provided for somewhere in Bethlehem.

There may not have been any room for them in the inn. But there was room for them in town somewhere. Remember “kataluma”? Archeologists have excavated and studied many first-century Judean homes. These homes often had multi-levels or terraces. They weren’t like what you and I think of as a two or three story house, but were more like a tri-level home where each floor might be separated by three or four feet of elevation.

The ground level was where the livestock would be sheltered at night; the next level was where the family lived, ate, and slept; and the third level would have the “kataluma,” the guestroom. Also, a built-in stone manger on the ground level was not uncommon in such homes. This arrangement can still be seen today throughout the Middle East.

What can we take from all of this? We like to make much of the idea that Jesus was not welcome in Bethlehem, that there was no room for Him there.
But that simply isn’t the case. He was born there, wasn’t He? And let’s not miss the obvious. During their time of need, wouldn’t you expect God to see to it that His Son, and Joseph and Mary as well, would have had all the protection, shelter, and care that they needed? Of course you would!

The point is this: While there wasn’t much room for Jesus in Bethlehem, there was most certainly some. The “No Vacancy” sign was out in most places, but not in all places. So, I ask you, what’s different today? The signs are not as innocuous as “No Vacancy.” No, they’re far more direct. Now it’s, “Get away, go away, keep away, and stay away.”

II. Text
Doesn’t it seem as though there is less room for Jesus every year? Everywhere you turn you can see Him deliberately and methodically pushed out of our culture. As of 2010 Radio Shack, Office Depot, Best Buy, and Staples had expunged the word “Christmas” from all of their advertising.

A spokesman (sorry, I think that should be “spokesPERSON”) for Staples was quoted as saying, “We use the term ‘Happy Holidays’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas.’ We do this because it does not offend any other religions and to remain politically correct.”

To which I respond, “Oh yeah, well, it offends me.” To which, I suspect, they would answer, “Sure, but you’re just one of those Christians.” Christians are becoming less and less influential in today’s world. We know that because we continually see more and more businesses and government agencies willing to offend us.

Other than those I just mentioned, there are many more companies that have removed the word “Christmas” from their corporate language. Some of them include Sonics, Target, Sears, K-Mart, Delta Airlines, American Airlines, and Wells Fargo Banks. I guess they think they have to do that. After all, the word “Christmas” does include the name of Christ. It seems that none of them have any room for Jesus.

Here’s a thought for all those who love to say “Happy Holidays” – Since Mother’s Day and Memorial Day are always close together, and since Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving are always close together, maybe we could say “Happy Holidays” then.

Does a year go by that we don’t hear of more assaults on the symbols of Christmas? If it isn’t another corporate removal of Jesus from their advertising, it’s a government agency or municipality taking down or banning any meaningful symbol of Christ and replacing it with yet another snowman, candy cane, or Christmas tree. Oops – I mean “holiday tree.”

Why must they do this? Is it really because a single Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, or atheist complains about it? Or is it really because of the too often believed myth of the separa-tion of church and state? By the way, that so-called “separation clause” does not exist in any of this nation’s founding documents. It never has.
However, you will find it in Article 124 of the constitution of the old Soviet Union. But back to my question – why are there so many assaults on the symbols of Christmas?

I believe the answer is as simple as it can be. It is because the world wants nothing to do with Jesus. And Christmas, contrary to popular opinion today, is and always has been about Jesus. Christmas is all about God’s gift to a sin-cursed world in desperate need of repentance and a Savior. But when our fallen and sinful world is reminded of Jesus’ coming, it hangs out the “No Vacancy” sign.

The reason for this is not hard to understand. Think about it.
• If the world were to welcome Jesus as the Gift of God, they would also have to acknowledge who He really is.
• If they acknowledged who He really is, they would also have to recognize their sin and admit their need for Him as their Lord and Savior.
• If they admitted their need for Jesus as Lord and Savior, they would also have to confess their sin, repent, and humble themselves before Him.
• If they confessed their sin, repented, and humbled themselves before Him, they would also have to worship Him as God’s Son and receive Jesus as their only hope of escaping hell and living eternally with Him in heaven.

These are precisely the things the vast majority of the world will not do! But a few will. Not “The Few – The Proud – The Marines,” but the few, the humble, the Christians. They’re His sheep. They’re the ones who hear His call and recognize His voice.
John 10:27-30
27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;
28 and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.
29 “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
30 “I and the Father are one.”

The few are His chosen ones.
Ephesians 1:4-5
4 …He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love
5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.

The few are those who find the narrow way to life in Him.
Matthew 7:13-14
13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it.
14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.”
The few will come to understand that Jesus is their only hope for heaven and eternal life.
John 14:6
6 Jesus said…“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

A few will receive Jesus into their hearts and will worship Him in spirit and in truth.
John 1:12-13
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become child-ren of God, even to those who believe in His name,
13 who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

It is these few – those who are called Jesus’ sheep, His chosen ones, those who have found the narrow path that leads to Him, who understand that He alone is the way to God, and who worship Him in spirit and in truth – it is these few who are saddened by a world that increasingly refuses even to acknowledge the existence of the God who created them.
*Romans 1:28-32
28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper,
29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, they are gossips,
30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,
31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful;
32 and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

It’s the true Christian who finds himself frustrated and even angered by the continual and systematic removal of all things pertaining to Christ and the God of the Bible, not only at Christmas, but at every other time of the year too. It goes on while the lost world reveres the religions of men and celebrates perversion and every form of deviant behavior.

But it is the true Christian who loves Christmas. The true Christian loves it because the true Christian loves Christ. Their hearts are wide open to Him. The lost world has no room for Jesus, but His people do.

Just as Joseph and Mary found room in Bethlehem so too does Jesus find room in the hearts of His chosen ones. These are the hearts that He opens and these are the hearts that He fills.

We have been taught to believe that we come to a point when we open our hearts and accept Jesus into them, but that is misleading. The fact is that without Christ our hearts are as hard as marble. They’re so full of the world that there is no room for Him at all.
There is nothing in the lost man or woman that seeks after God. Isn’t that exactly what the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans?
*Romans 3:10-18
10 as it is written, “there is none righteous, not even one;
11 there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God;
12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving.” “The poison of asps is under their lips”;
14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood,
16 destruction and misery are in their paths,
17 and the path of peace have they not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Most of us have grown up in churches hearing a gospel that urges us to “invite Jesus into your heart and you will be saved.” But that isn’t what the Bible says about our hearts at all. What it says is this…
*Romans 10:9-10
9 …if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved;
10 for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

This is not calling for us to “accept Jesus and invite Him into our hearts.” It is calling for us to believe in Him. This is so important. It is not some obscure fine point of theo-logy. Sinners are called to believe, not to accept.
• It is only when we believe in Him, that our hearts are opened to Him.
• It is only when our hearts are opened to Him, that there is room for Him.
• It is only when there is room in our hearts for Him, that He comes to us.

And when He does come to us we don’t accept Him, we receive Him. Listen again to John.
John 1:12-13
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become child-ren of God, even to those who believe in His name,
13 who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Are you among the few this morning? How important it is for us to understand that it is God’s will that saved us, not our own! It is not that we accepted Him. Rather it is that we received Him because He accepted us.
It’s because of the condition of the unregenerate human heart that God must be the one to break through and open the heart to receive Him.

In our fallen, depraved, and lost condition we have neither the ability to believe in Him on our own nor the desire to do so. This is why Paul says of unregenerate men and women, “…there is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God…”

Why? Because the heart of the lost man or woman is so filled with the things of this world that they have no desire for Jesus and the salvation He offers. There’s no room for Him. They have their “No Vacancy” signs out.

But what about those of us who are counted among “the few,” those of us who have received Christ and His salvation? That’s not the case with us, is it? Our hearts are open to Him, aren’t they? We have room in our hearts for Him, don’t we? I mean, one of the hymns we sometime sing says we do.

The refrain in “Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne,” says this: “O come to my heart, Lord Jesus – There is room in my heart for Thee!” Do we mean it? Sure we do! So how is that working out for us today, two days before Christmas? Is there really room for Him? Or have you unknowingly, even unwillingly pushed Him out of your heart because you’ve allowed so many other things to get in the way?

After all, you’re busy. You have work to do. You have shopping to do. You have pre-sents to wrap. You have places to go and people to see. You have family and friends coming over. Then you have this to move, that to fix, this to clean, that to cook, this to write, and that to prepare. The list goes on and on ad infinitum. You know how it is. It never ends. And that’s the problem, isn’t it?

We say, “I’ll make room for Jesus as soon as I get all the rest of it done.” But of course, all the rest of it is never done. And in the meantime, Christmas comes and Christmas goes. The world ignores it or ridicules it. And too often, the few who have room for Jesus the rest of the year don’t have room for Him now.

Listen, I don’t know what you want for Christmas. I don’t know what you’ll get for Christmas. But I’m pretty sure I know what Jesus wants for Christmas. I think He wants the hearts of His few – those of us whom He has saved, those of us who know and love Him – to be emptied of the world’s “stuff” so there will be room in our hearts for Him.

III. Conclusion
Do you want room in your hearts for peace this Christmas? The world is falling down all around us. The world is literally going to hell as we watch. But do you remember what the angels said when they appeared to the shepherds? Brett and Jordan told us at the beginning of the service.
The angels said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased (Luke 2:14).”

“…those with whom God is pleased” are Jesus’ sheep, the few, the chosen ones. Make room in your hearts for Him and He will give you the peace He promised. Before Jesus went to the cross He told His disciples…
John 14:27
27 “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. (So) let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

Here is a wonderful “gift exchange.” If you will give Jesus your heart, He’ll give you His peace. “O come to my heart, Lord Jesus – There is room in my heart for Thee!” Merry Christmas to you all!

~ Pray ~