Have you ever heard the funny story where the kid says he wishes he was born in a barn so that when his mom asks, “Were you born in a barn?” he can say “Yes!”? That always makes me laugh, but it occurred to me recently that Jesus was born in a barn… or the first century equivalent of one.
I’d hazard a guess that Mary and Joseph did what they could to push back the chaos of a barnyard to make a sweet haven for their precious bundle – even though the only cradle they could offer was a manger and their arms. There, in the midst of stable stench and their own ruined reputations, they held tightly to God.
You realize, of course, before the angel appeared to each of them, Mary and Joseph had other plans. Plans for a safe, comfortable, ordinary life. Plans to fashion furniture and oxen yokes from wood. Plans to bake bread, to make goat cheese, and to help with the harvest. Plans to love God and their neighbors. Plans to await the coming Messiah as generations before them had done. But God interrupted their expectations with the extraordinary.
And they were willing to accept his plan, even when it wasn’t convenient.
That first Christmas, they gazed at his precious face and felt his tiny fingers wrap around theirs. Their hearts swelled with a love for God that met them in their mess and helped them see beyond the mess to the mightiness of God. In that moment, they held tightly to him. Then they shared him with all those who looked on with wonder. They were willing to sacrifice their expectation of ordinary.
I don’t live in a barn. As a matter of fact, I don’t live anywhere right now. Our house is in Tennessee. Our ministry is in Pennsylvania. We’re staying in Delaware with my mother-in-law (who is super awesome, I might add! NINE extra people for who knows how long?!?!).
So I have to ask myself, will I hold tightly to God or to my plans in the midst of all these not-my-plan circumstances? Will I gaze into his adoring eyes for courage when I struggle to find my way? What about during the times when people believe the worst about me simply because I am following God?
There’s that verse in Hebrews that talks about not neglecting to show hospitality because you could find yourself entertaining angels. Mary and Joseph showed hospitality to a baby and entertained God in the flesh.
They didn’t wait until their house was clean enough, big enough, or pretty enough, either. They understood hospitality is not always convenient, so they opened their arms and the stable they were borrowing not only to Jesus, but to all who would travel to meet him there.
Am I willing to offer my arms as a haven of rest, even when I don’t have a home? What about months from now when, Lord willing, I have a home strewn with today’s equivalent of manure and hay? Will I set aside the desire to have a place for everything to make a place for people? Will I push back the chaos of our culture to make a sweet haven in my home? In my heart?
What about you? Will you open your heart and home – even on the days you don’t get to the crumbs under the table? I wouldn’t rule out developing habits to keep from needing to name the dust bunnies, but you can begin. Right where you are. The question is: Will you?