the one about space on that first Holy Night...
December 25, 2015, 9:00 AM

Christmas Eve Sermon

Text: Luke 2: 1-20

Grace and peace to each of y’all this evening – those here with us physically and those who are listening to us on the radio – wherever you are right now – welcome to this most holy of nights – the night in which we celebrate our God being born into the world – where the Word of God is made flesh and has come to dwell with us. Where Immanuel – God with us – is fulfilled in the most beautiful, surprising, and fragile of ways. We get to be in worship this night to give thanks for what God has done, is doing, and will do. Will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

As we have been on this journey towards this night, as we have been traveling and experiencing the season of Advent – that season in the church leading up to Christ’s birth – one word has been at the forefront in my mind. For those of you who have been able to read my newsletter article from this past month, this will all seem a little familiar.

It amazes me that the more and more I read a piece of familiar scripture – like the story of Jesus’ birth as it is told to us through the Gospel of Luke – the different ways it ‘speaks’ to me – to us – depending on where we are in life or in the people we meet or in response to the events of the world around us.

The story of this birth as it is told to us this evening is one that is incredibly familiar to us. We’ve heard it in worship for years. We’ve heard it told in Christmas programs by our children and friends. We’ve heard it from the mouth of Linus in the Charlie Brown Christmas TV show. We know this story. And because we know this story we become familiar in how we interpret it.

Whenever I’ve seen this story acted out in programs and nativity scenes there is always one part that I remember vividly. That part where Joseph and Mary – pregnant and about to burst – are told continually that they can’t ‘stay here’ or ‘here’ or ‘here.’

That there is no room. The ‘No’ light on the vacancy sign has been lit. There is nowhere for them to go. So, they must – they are forced to – go sleep in a barn among the animals. The story of the ‘great rejection’ of our Lord on the night of his birth is continually shaped and formed in our brains.

Yet, when we read this story – we see that we might’ve added a few things that don’t appear there. There’s no mention of animals. There’s no story of being continually turned away. We are given a few details and we kind of ‘fill in the rest’ as best as we can.

It wasn’t until this year that as I read this story – with the guidance of one of my favorite colleagues at a retreat for pastors – amid the numerous stories we have seen played out in our country and world – that one word spoke to me for this season.


Space – not in the sense that I’m a nerd and I’ve already seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens multiple times – and I’m willing to go see it a few more times.

Space – as in the place we give to people in our lives.

You see – this birth story that we read has a lot to do about space, but I don’t think in the way that you and I are accustomed to hearing and interpreting it.

We have heard time and time again that there just wasn’t space for the Holy Family. That Bethlehem – the city that Joseph was from – the city where his ancestor David – the king – was born was filled up and there was no space for Joseph and his family.

That as people looked upon this poor couple and saw Mary and her burgeoning belly they realized there was soon to be no more space left in her for the child she carried. Nevertheless – no heart – no grace – no care – no space for them here. Move along. Go check the next place. Maybe they’ll be able to help.

That’s the story that we’ve been told. So we imagine in our minds since we were children that the people during this time are pretty mean, heartless, and uncaring. Never mind that none of that is actually depicted at all in the words of scripture we read from this evening.

So, perhaps – maybe – possibly – that’s not how the story played out. Maybe that is our way of looking at the world and seeing less than and assuming that that is how it’s supposed to be. That has we hear stories throughout our history and in our current environment of story upon story of not having enough – of people being turned away – of the ‘not welcome’ sign displayed prominently in proverbial homes and borders that we assume that must be going on here.

Where instead of thinking about the terrible ordeal that our Lord’s parents experienced that night of being continually rejected by homes and people – only to find comfort among the ‘animals’ and the second-class – that perhaps this story is more about how space was made for them.

That perhaps in this story of God coming to dwell with us – as God makes space within divine life to be among that of humanity and God’s creation – that space was made for our Lord on this first and holy night.

That perhaps this story isn’t so much about the lack of space, but instead about the making of space for the holy – making space for others – making space for God within our lives. Perhaps this night and celebration is about the abundance of space.

That perhaps the reason we read of a manger is because well – it makes a pretty good stand-in for a crib and would’ve been pretty easy to obtain at the last minute. That perhaps as we read the original language of Greek that this story was written in we see that ‘inn’ can be better translated as ‘guestroom.’ And that perhaps the ‘guestroom’ was filled (lots of people were in Bethlehem), but space was made for Joseph and Mary into the lives and home of the people they approached.

So maybe, just maybe this story isn’t about the rejection of the holy in our lives, but about the radical hospitality of making space for those who enter our lives.

Now, how does that direct and guide us? How does the thought that perhaps this season is about making space, direct us in how we interact with the world and with others in our lives? Where we see that God has made space for us by entering into the world to be Immanuel. Making space to be in this new and intimate relationship with creation – making space to be with and for us through this birth. Where we see that God has made space for us and that space has been made for the Holy Family and we in turn make space for those in our lives.

Where we make space for family and friends. Which is probably the easiest space to make even though he can be incredibly stressful. But, we make it work. We deal with the differing views on a whole host of subjects to be together with family.

But, maybe making space also means making space for those that we see around us. We hear stories and see prominent individuals making claims that space can’t or shouldn’t be made for others, but perhaps that’s not what God has been calling for and leading us towards. Of course that doesn’t mean it won’t be easy – nothing God calls us to is easy, far from it. But, what would the world look like – what would our lives look like – if when we met others different from us we made space in our lives for them?

Making space to learn, to be in conversation, to be in relationship with. Not to mention the literal making of space in providing shelter, and clothes, and food for those in need. It isn’t always easy, there is a lot of trepidation and anxiety that can accompany that sort of radical hospitality. But what if…

What if we did a better job of making space for the divine and the mysterious in our lives? Where we deliberately set a part space to be in conversation with God? To be in song and thanksgiving with the Spirit? To be in worship – not because we have to, but because we get to in thanksgiving for what God has done for us. Where we remember that God has made space for us.

This season, I cannot help but think about space. How space was made for Jesus and his parents. How space was made for those shepherds to be a part of the celebration of what has happened. How for those same shepherds space was made so that they too could look upon what God had done as they visited this family. How Mary made space to ponder and think about all that God had done for her.

How as we all come to worship this evening, those who’ve come out of habit – those who’ve come out of desire – those who’ve come because they were curious this night – those who’ve come because the dial is stuck on 1240 – that space has been made for you. That God has come down to be with us. To be able to say that you – that I – that we are not alone.

That God is here. That God is present. Space has been made for us. No matter who you are or where you’ve come from. God has made space for you. That this story that we celebrate this evening is our story. That we are a part of this. That as we read of space being made for Jesus – we remember that space has been made for us and the world.

It’s pretty special when those you don’t know or don’t know well or those you don’t expect make space for you. God has made space for us. Space was made for Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. God is guiding us to make space for those around us – those we know well and those we don’t know very well. It won’t always be easy; it is very likely that it’ll be stressful – but we remember that God is present with us through it.

We remember this night that Christ was born into the world. What a joy to remember this night. This night that we remember that space was made. That space is made. That space will be made.

Space for us. Space for others. Space for Christ. God has come to be with us because there is an abundance of space. Amen.


12-30-2015 at 9:05 PM
Ed Stephenson
This is a blessing to all who read or have heard the message. I'm blessed to be one,and shall always remember to make space.As God has done for me.Thank you
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