That’s a cool video. The reason I like it so much is because it expands our understanding of Christmas. It gives meaning to the simple Christmas story we have just seen acted out for us. It takes us far beyond the nativity scene, the baby in the manger, the shepherds and the wise men… far beyond the trappings of our modern season, with the lights, and bows, and carols… the family, food, friends, shopping, hustle and bustle… and reminds us that the season of Christmas is about so much more.
The Meaning of Christmas / Life
If someone were to ask you “What is the “true meaning of Christmas?” what would you say? Or how about the bigger question, “What is the meaning of life?” Or more personally – what is the meaning of your life? That’s a tough one, isn’t it? The answer seems to be almost ethereal… unreachable… like trying to grasp a handful of steam. A lot of people have tried to answer that… everyone has tried to answer that.
People are thirsty for meaning. They want to know why things happen. Some people call it the metanarrative, the story, of this world – and not just the story of the world, but the meaning, the “why” of their individual lives. And it seems that this is the time of year that people think more and more about the idea of meaning. And I believe that the true meaning of Christmas helps us find the meaning of our lives.
We’ve heard the phrase a million times in every movie, TV show and newspaper article about Christmas… everyone is looking for the “true meaning of Christmas.” It usually has something to do with generosity, or family, or reconciliation of relationships… and as great as those things are… that’s not it. And we all have an answer to the question of the “true meaning of Christmas”, even if we can’t put it into words.
For some, the “true meaning of Christmas” is getting presents… not the noblest of sentiments, but at least their honest.
For some, the “true meaning of Christmas” is to get time off work. For others, it’s an excuse to shop and spend money. Others would say that it’s all about getting together with family. Still others believe that the “true meaning of Christmas” is found in all of the Christmas rituals and traditions that get brought out… baking cookies, turkey dinner, skating on the ice, decorating the tree, and remembering Christmases as a kid.
For Christians the “True meaning of Christmas” is the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The reason we celebrate Christmas is to celebrate Jesus. Who, I can say without overstatement, is most influential person in all of human history. In fact, I’ve heard it said that human history revolves around Jesus. It is by knowing and understanding Jesus that we find meaning for what is going on around us. He gives meaning to all that happens, and it is through a personal relationship with Him that things start to make sense.
An Innkeeper named Wally
I want to tell you a story about a little boy named “Wally”. Wally was big for his age–seven years old. Everyone wondered what role the teacher would give him in the annual Christmas play. Especially considering the fact that he was also a slow learner. Perhaps he could pull the curtain or light the lights. To everyone’s surprise the teacher gave Wally the role of the innkeeper. The boy of course was delighted. After all, all he had to learn was one line: “There is no room in the inn.” He had that down in no time.
Then came the night of the program. The parents took their places. Every seat was filled. The children entered singing “Oh come all ye faithful.” The lights dimmed. A hush moved over the audience. The curtain opened. Mary and Joseph entered the stage and walked up to the inn. “Please sir, my wife is not well. Could we have a room for the night?”
Wally was ready for his line. He had rehearsed it all night. He began, “there is…” and he hesitated. He started over again. “There is…” and again his mind went completely blank. Everyone was embarrassed for him and poor Wally just didn’t know what to do. Joseph thought he would improvise and started walking away toward the stable on stage left. Seeing him walking away Wally in desperation called out: “Look, there’s no room in the inn… but there’s plenty of room at my house, so just come on home with me.”
Isn’t that a nice little twist on the familiar story? Over the years the characters in the Christmas story have become very clearly defined for us. King Herod was a villain and the wise men were heroes. The shepherds were heroes and the Innkeeper–well, how do you see the innkeeper? In our minds eye, we envision him as a crotchety old man with a night cap on his head sticking his head out a second story window and tersely shouting: “Take the stable and leave me alone”.
But maybe the innkeeper has just gotten some bad press. Was it his fault that the inn was built with twelve rooms instead of thirteen? Was it his fault that Caesar Augustus had issued a decree that the entire world should be taxed, and that they would all come banging on his door? Was it his fault that Mary and Joseph were so late in arriving? If they would have come a couple days earlier… then maybe he would have had a room and he could have been a hero too!
I want to redeem our poor innkeeper tonight. Consider that on that crazy, busy night in Bethlehem, when the entire Roman world was astir, and everyone was clambering for a room… the Innkeeper made room for a very tired man and his young, frazzled, uncomfortable, very-pregnant wife. He made room – he found space – he figured out how it could work.
I believe that discovering the meaning of Christmas, and the meaning of life, comes down that same thing: making room. If the birth of Jesus is the true meaning of Christmas… and ultimately the one who gives meaning to life… then are we prepared to make room for Him in our lives?
And as we make room, Jesus comes in to the place we give Him – however small… however dirty… however humble… and He blesses it, and miracles occur. Just like in the innkeeper’s stable, God took the room, as small as it was, as dirty and humble as it was, and made miracles happen. He brought the Saviour into the world.
Perhaps you are looking for a miracle in your life. Perhaps there are things in your life that you want to see fixed. Maybe there are broken relationships, economic problems, addictions, fears, stresses and anxieties that are overwhelming you. Maybe you have been seeking comfort in places that have been only making you feel worse. Maybe your heart is so full of hurt or pain or anger that you don’t know how to deal with it, and though no one sees it, every day is a struggle not to collapse under the weight of it… to lash out and hurt others… or to give up.
Maybe you are searching to find out the meaning of all of the things that have happened to you in your life. Maybe you don’t feel an urgency, but when you take all the pieces of your life so far, you just don’t know how they fit together. What is your purpose? Where is your life headed? Are you seeking hope, joy, peace, love, and meaning this evening?
To you I give the example of the Innkeeper: he made room. Make room for Jesus. Yes, He wants the whole of your life. He wants to change every part of you. He wants to completely forgive you and renew you, and promises to do so, but He’s willing to start with whatever place you want to make room. He will bring miracles there. He will shine light there. He will show you meaning there.
Make room for Jesus today by talking to Him in prayer. Make room tomorrow by opening the Bible and reading the Christmas story. Make room this season by remembering and reflecting on why He came and what He has done for you. Keep making room, and giving Him a little more room when He asks for it.
I promise that if you make room for Him, He will work miracles there and show you the peace, love, joy, hope and meaning that you long to see.