There's Room For Him In Our Two Car Garage
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
I want you to forget everything you know about the Christmas story. I really want you to try to hear this for the first time from Luke’s telling of it. No Matthew mixed in. Matthew tells the story much differently. For example Mary and Jospeh already live in Bethlehem. In Luke they live in Nazareth and travel to Bethlehem because of the Census. So let’s not homogenize the story either. Mary didn’t travel on a Donkey, there was no star at all for Luke, so the shepherds did not follow a star.
Here’s some other things to think about. The shepherds would not have been in the fields. They would have been in the fields before the sun went down. But at night the moved their flocks inside of the caves that are above the shepherds field. Those caves are churches now. Here’s a mural that is painted on the cave wall. It’s not accurate either. We have added so much folk lore to the story. It does depict the nativity in a cave which is accurate. it wasn’t in a barn.There would have been (maybe) some livestock but not all those lambs. There was no piper. However, hiring a piper to announce the birth of a boy was standard cultural procedure in that day. The manger wouldn’t have been wood, it would have been stone. Finally, probably the most absurd thing is this picture is the dog. Dogs were unclean a jewish family wouldn’t have had a dog. So you see what we have done to this story. We’ve made it a cute folk tale and its lost a lot of its true theological meaning. The scandal of its ordinariness.
So let’s turn to the scripture, Luke’s story and examine the way Luke tells it and why he probably told it this way.
We have heard this story of the birth of Jesus every year we can remember. It is important where and how Jesus was born. Oh I know we hear the obvious that being born in Bethlehem was the fulfillment of prophecy and that there was no room for them in the Inn. What may be the most important fact is not how Jesus was born, but that he was born at all. It seems people really love the fairy tale like story of Jesus birth and pass by the big story. That God became incarnate in a human baby and was born in a most ordinary way. Really, it was ordinary. It was not unusual for a birth to happen in this manner in that day. Luke treats it very matter of factly dedicating only 2 verses to the actual birth. “While they were there she gave birth to her first born son. Wrapped him up and laid him in a manger, because they couldn’t get a room at the local inn. Pretty ordinary. Nothing miraculous about this birth, the conception yes, but not the birth. Except, that is if you know the whole story.
The story that begins with our need for a savior. You know we do. All of us right now, this very minute, in the back of our minds are hoping that someone can save this mess we are in. Admit it, we are. It might be the President, or Korea, or Russia. We don’t care, all we want is a savior for this mess in which we find ourselves Just take a look at what we are promoting as saviors today: The new tax bill. The wall. A stronger military. Make America Great Again. But this is nothing new. The New Deal was goin to save us. Obama care was going to save us. For some in my generation it was psychedelic drugs. Electric and hybrid vehicles are supposed to save us. Being more conscious of our environment is supposed to save us. Reducing our carbon footprint is supposed to save us. Frankly, if you really believe any of this is going to save us, you will find that it is no savior. Just a temporary solution to a much more eternal problem. I am not saying these things are bad, I am just saying they will never save us. Never. But would you agree, that we are a people always looking for a savior?
Electric and hybrid vehicles are supposed to save us. Being more conscious of our environment is supposed to save us. Reducing our carbon footprint is supposed to save us. Frankly, if you really believe any of this is going to save us, you will find that it is no savior. Just a temporary solution to a much more eternal problem. I am not saying these things are bad, I am just saying they will never save us. Never. But would you agree, that we are a people always looking for a savior?
We need to face the fact that deep down, inside all people are in need of a savior.
Our life is all about the path we take to Bethlehem. Our path to seeking a savior. Mary and Joseph were sent there by Caesar. The Three Kings were sent there by signs in the heavens. The shepherds were sent there by the angels. What path are you taking to Bethlehem? What path are you on ? What savior are you trying to find? Now here’s the true miracle of Christmas. This is the rest of the story. The real savior, the one you’ll find wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in the manger is looking for you. That savior is seeking you and the Shepherds on that night so long ago are an example of God seeking us.
The shepherds were not highly regarded people. They were considered shiftless and dishonest, and this is whom the angels announce the birth of God’s son to. You see no matter how bad you think you are, no matter what you have done in your past God wants a relationship with you. God is seeking you out. God is looking for you, God is giving you signs so that you will know his savior when he finds you!
The shepherds were in the caves minding their own business, watching their flocks when suddenly the heavens erupted with God’s Glory. Now, those two words God’s Glory are interesting. Did you know that this Glory is the same Glory that was in the Temple, in the Holy of Holies where only the High Priest could enter and only on Yom Kippur? And if he was not ritually pure God’s Glory would strike him dead? These shepherds surely knew that, and that’ why they were terrified. But this birth, this ordinary birth had somehow changed all that. This birth was the dawning of a new age. An age in which humankind and God would not be separated. A day in which we did not have to have an intermediary approach God for us, because God has come directly and personally calling on us. A day in which we could behold God’s Glory, a day in which God’s glory has come to us, we did not have to go to Him. A day in which all people share in God’s salvation even the lowest of the low, like the shepherds I think we just agreed that we are all looking for a savior. I think we would agree that if we are all looking for a savior that that means we are lost. Even as a baby Jesus came to seek the lost!
Now, the greatest thing in all of this is God directs the Shepherds to Bethlehem. In other words, God seeks them out. They are just hanging out minding their own business and God calls them and directs them to his Son. What path are you taking to Bethlehem? These shepherds decided to follow God’s leading. They didn’t have to. They could have just continued to hang out with their sheep.
You see this is where many of us fall a little short. We miss God’s call. Now I know that it was hard for these Shepherds to miss this call. Most often God comes to us in less obvious ways, sometimes not. Our problem is that we get blinded by the world, by all those false saviors out there because we are so busy seeking them, that we fail to see the one that is seeking us. God is seeking us while we are looking in all the wrong places at counterfeit saviors. In a way we are all like Caesar Augustus. We are causing all kinds of things to happen in our lives, when God is really controlling the outcome and we miss it. Do you think Caesar realized that when he called for that census he was actually accomplishing the will of God? That he was actually helping to fulfill a prophecy about the true savior?
Isn’t it odd what we shut out of our lives? Isn’t odd what we fail to see when it might be the most obvious. Isn’t odd what we make room for in our lives and what things we shut out.? What things we say there is no room for in the inn? Have you ever lost anything and looked and looked for it, and then finally found it when it was right before your eyes? I do that with stuff on my desk all the time. I’ll say I know it I put it right there. And it was right there, I just never saw it because my eyes were moving so fast to find it I overlooked it! It is almost as if the thing was looking for me and I was saying no you can’t be right there, it can’t be this simple!
But with God it is simple and it is right there. The angels told the Shepherds what path to take to Bethlehem. They listened and decided to take that path, they responded to God’s grace and at the end of that path they found exactly what they were looking for. The real savior, a tiny baby. Who would have ever dreamed it. A tiny baby in Bethlehem is what is seeking us out, what is meeting us on our path.
What brought you in here this morning? Maybe you just wanted to sing a few carols, and try to recapture that awe and joy you felt as a child? Because that awe and joy would somehow save you? Well, so you came in here looking for a savior didn’t you? Did you realize that you were on a God directed path to Bethlehem? That it is here that you will find your savior, your real savior. Not one that give a certain feeling or joy based on events in your life. But a Savior who gives true joy that comes from who he is and what he does? I pray that you have been as successful as the Shepherds were. No matter who you are, your station in life, what you have done are what you may be doing right now, God is seeking you. You may be as unaware as Caesar, but God brought you here so that you may meet the true savior. Jesus Christ. Don’t shut him out, make room for him.
This advent season I have been preaching a series of sermons based upon the old Christmas son “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” A song sung by ten year old Gail Peevey in 1953. The last verse of the song goes like this:
There's lots of room for him in our two-car garage I'd feed him there and wash him there and give him his massage.
Isn’t it funny what we will make room for in our lives and what we will shut out? Isn’t it funny the kinds of saviors we will chase when the real savior is chasing us and we are running from him? Those of you that have been present for the whole series, have you figured it out? That what we are chasing, those false Messiah are nothing but hippopotamuses. And when we get them we just stick them in the garage with all our other junk we seem to collect. We make room for the junk and just let it sit there, because it doesn’t really bring salvation.
We can do the same thing with the Christ child as well. We can choose not to go to Bethlehem, or we can choose to go and leave him in the manger, or we can choose to go and bring him into our living rooms, and our kitchens, and our offices, and yes even our churches. Did you realize that, that you are on a path to Bethlehem, where a true savior is looking for you? That is the message of Christmas. God came into the world looking for you, you personally? Please don’t leave him in the manger tonight, don’t stick him in your two car garage like some other false savior. Bring him home in your heart. That is what the shepherd’s did. Did you notice that?
“When they saw this they made known what had been told about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.”
I hope your amazed, I hope the child is in your heart and home where you will tell others and like Mary I hope you will treasure all these words and ponder them in your heart. Merry Christmas, best of all is God is with us.