Have you read that funny line where the kid wishes he was born in a barn so that when his mom asks, “Were you born in a barn?” he can say “Yes!” It makes me laugh every time that circulates.
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. And there, in the midst of stable stench and their own ruined reputations, they held tightly to God. Literally.
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.
That first Christmas, they gazed at his precious face and felt his tiny fingers wrap around theirs. And 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. And they shared him with all those who looked on with wonder. They were willing to sacrifice their expectation of ordinary. And it was. not. easy.
Do I hold tightly to God or to my plans in the midst of unpleasant circumstances?
Will I gaze into his adoring eyes for courage when people believe the worst about me?
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.
And they didn’t wait until their house was clean enough, big enough, or pretty enough. 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 while my home is strewn with today’s equivalent of manure and hay?
Can I set aside the desire to have a place for everything in order to to make a place for people?
Will I push back the chaos of our culture to make a sweet haven in my home?
Between now and when Jesus returns in glory, we can be his hands and his feet by opening our homes even on the days we don’t get to the crumbs under the table and the dishes piled in the sink.
That doesn’t rule out developing habits to keep from needing to name the dust bunnies and call them pets. But it does help me find perspective.
I struggle with this. So I make deliberate choices to direct myself to extend grace through hospitality – in and out of my home.
Posts in the “Extending Grace” category will include simple, practical tips and ideas for making our homes a place where those who enter get grace, whether they are a resident or a visitor. I will also encourage encounters that extend grace through hospitality past the front porch.