Have you ever tried to get a child to try something delicious that he has already decided he doesn’t want to eat?
“Here, try this.”
“No. That’s yucky.”
“How can you say it is yucky? You haven’t tried it.”
(Child clamps mouth shut and looks the other direction)
“Okay…. but you don’t know what you’re missing.”
Have you ever wondered what the innkeepers in Bethlehem would have done if they’d known that the couple sent to deliver a baby in a stable was delivering the King of kings? Would they have made room? Found the best doctor? Cleaned extra? This wasn’t just any baby; this was Jesus Christ! The Prince of Peace! Savior of the World!
But they didn’t know. They didn’t know the baby was God incarnate who would live a sinless life and die for their sins. They didn’t know what they were missing.
Jesus’s birth is a picture of all humanity’s relationship with its Creator. It points backward to a nation that never kept God in his right place and forward to how it would treat Christ during his life and into eternity,
In the Beginning
Reading the Old Testament creates a foundational worldview rich with God-honoring truth that directs our thoughts rightly. It is more than a collection of stories to provide moral example. On the contrary, most Bible “heroes” make massive moral failures. God is the only real hero and uses us in spite of our failures.
As a child, I marveled and eye-rolled at the stupidity of the Old Testament leaders and nations. They were in an endless cycle of making terrible decisions resulting in terrible consequences from which only God could save them. They would cry out to God. He would save them. They would sing about how wonderful he was before returning to business as usual and forgetting all the promises they made to do better. Rinse and repeat.
They didn’t know what they had when they had it. The nation of Israel constantly and repeatedly became distracted by some other nation’s shiny God and decided to try that one on for size. They put their creator in the back room instead of the front room. Instead of a life of promise, they chose something so much less. They didn’t know what they were missing.
God with Us
Can you imagine having a meal with Jesus? How would you prepare your home? What would you wear? Would you prepare something special? What would you talk about? Would any of those answers be different than if you invited, say, a stranger on the street?
Outside of the triumphal entry, no one gave Jesus special treatment. He grew up working class. His friends were ordinary men and the ones who were not ordinary men were lower rather than the upper class. He was rejected by his hometown and scorned by the religious elite. They didn’t know what they were missing.
Jesus was right there. All of the goodness and greatness of God was right before them, and they ignored him, discounted him, rebuffed him, and schemed for his murder.
Even the disciples often struggled to understand who and what Jesus was, and they were with him daily. Oh! Can you imagine just an hour to sit with our Savior? Would I ask him questions? Would I cry silent tears and just let him hold me, knowing he already knew every heartache? or would I waste the opportunity?
The innocent baby born in a stable would be the sinless man who died on a tree. He knew the world would reject him to the point of murder. He bluntly stated this in Luke 17:25: “But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” He illustrated it in the Parable of the Vineyard owner (Luke 20-9-18), demonstrating that after he was rejected, the opportunity would go to others.
Consider that when Jesus is rejected, he goes elsewhere. When there was no room in the inn, Mary and Joseph went to the stable. In the parable of the Great Banquet, Jesus tells of a man whose guests rejected him, so he filled the table with those from the “highways and hedges.” When his hometown rejected him, he preached elsewhere.
I want to be the one welcoming Jesus, not the one giving up my seat — but am I?
What we are Missing
What are we missing?
It was a sobering day when I realized that I was no better than the people of the Old Testament. I constantly turn my attention, worship, and trust to lesser things: my self, my marriage, my church, friends, All these things shove Christ’s love for me to the background. I escort him to the stable instead of the room with a view. They were the innkeeper. I am the innkeeper.
Jesus explained to his disciples that there would be a helper coming after him: the Spirit. He tells them that the Spirit would dwell within those who know Jesus but be rejected by the world, just as he was (John 14:15-18). The Spirit receives the same treatment as the baby laid in a manger. Pushed to the fringes. Overlooked and not seen as the beautiful gift.
God is as available to us as air. Is there room in your heart — or have you cluttered it with lesser guests?