Have you read that funny line where the kid said he wished he was born in a barn so that when his mom asked, “Were you born in a barn?” he could say “Yes!” It makes me laugh every time that circulates.
Then it occurred to me that Jesus really 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.
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 ordinary expectations with an extraordinary calling. 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. They shared him with all those who shared their wonder – shepherds who rushed from the fields nearby and Magi who traveled the face of the earth, all gathered to gaze at the face of God. 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 unexpected circumstances?
Will I gaze into his adoring eyes for courage when people believe the worst about me?
There’s that verse in Hebrews (Hebrews 13:2) that talks about extending hospitality and you finding you’ve entertained 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?
Will I accept the extraordinary calling to be ordinary in my days? Sacrificing my expectation of ordinary doesn’t always look like raising the Son of God. Sometimes it looks like adding an extra place setting to the table or folding socks with a gentle and quiet spirit. Sometimes I forget I am called to the great extraordinary of ordinary. Ordinary like serving others, made extraordinary by serving others instead of self.
Serving others has gone out of fashion in a culture that demands we serve ourselves. But is my extraordinary calling.
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13
Between now and when Jesus returns in glory, I can be his hands and his feet by opening my home even on the days I don’t get to the crumbs under the table or the dishes piled on the counter.
That doesn’t rule out developing habits to prevent the need to name the dust bunnies and call them pets, but it does help me find perspective.
I struggle with this, so I have to make deliberate choices to extend grace through hospitality. I have to choose daily to hold tightly to Jesus and to share him with those who sit at my table, whether they’ve travelled down the hall or across the ocean to join me.
And when I look into the heart of Jesus, I find that he meets me in my mess and reveals his mightiness. His hospitality overcomes my fear and my excuses. He opened the door to heaven by pushing aside the filth of sin, so that I can open the door to my home by pushing aside a basket of laundry and the door to my life by pushing aside my pride.