It's not that there was no place in the "inn" or "guest room." It's that there was no place FOR THEM. For Mary and Joseph. What would Joseph's relatives say? What would the other girls in the family learn from Mary who was showing up in Bethelehm about to give birth to a baby that was not Joseph's? We always seem to assume that Bethlehem was so full because of the census that all the motels were booked. But Joseph was from around there. They should have had a place. If nothing else, the people of Bible times were supposedly known for their hospitality! But not this time. It's not too hard to imagine that Mary and Joseph couldn't find a place because they didn't fit the good Jewish mold. The baby wasn't Joseph's. Word had no doubt spread. That's how things go, of course. Everybody always knows. We can imagine a world that doesn't care about a couple trying to find a place so the girl can have her baby. But we can also imagine them not having a place because people would be looking down at them, afraid to violate their religious sensibilities and morals. Even Joseph was minded to put Mary away quietly, if not have her stoned for adultery. But God was doing something else. Something greater. Something for them and for you.
There was no place for them, so it was a manger for baby Jesus. The great irony is this: His place is a manger to give you a place with God. Jesus is born, poor, an outcast, in a food trough, to put you at the right hand of God with Him. When Adam and Eve tossed God's Word aside, the curse of sin threw them out of the Garden. They lost their place. But Jesus was born to put them back where they belong. To put YOU back where you belong: with the Lord. His whole life, Jesus' place would be the place of the lowest, the outcast, the scorned. The manger in a stable. The cross between two thieves. The tomb borrowed from someone else. "The Son of Man has no place to lay His head," Jesus once said. There's never a place for Jesus. And He endures that to save you. To make sure you are put back in your place with God and never kicked out. To give you a room and mansion in the Lord's house. In fact, where we would so quickly judge someone else's sins, Jesus came to assure you a place with the Lord not on the basis of what you've done or not done, not kept out because of anything you've done. Rather, by the forgiveness Christ brings, your place is set.
How about you? Who would you keep out of the kingdom of God if it were up to you? To whom would you say, "Sorry, no place for you here." Maybe we do that because we are selfish or don't want to share with others. Maybe we do it because we are judging them to be unworthy based on our own standards. It doesn't matter. Repent! Christmas repentance! Let's all just confess together that when the Son of God shows up, we would give Him no place just like we so easily give no place to others around us. Maybe it's a place at your table. In your home. Maybe it's a place in our church. Maybe it's a place in our larger circle of friends or family. Who do you see coming and, looking down at them for whatever they've done, shut the blinds and put up the "No Vacancy" sign? But they have a place. You have a place. That place was given to you at this place. In particular THAT place, the font. And in THIS place, the Good News is heard: A Savior is born. A Savior who is Christ the Lord. Doesn't matter if there's not a single room available and for whatever reason. He's born anyway. Born to go to cross and resurrection for you. Here's His rightful place now, the right hand of the Father, and on this altar, the flesh and blood that are His, given for you to eat and drink. Flesh and blood that promise you a place. A place with Him. And with them. Those also for whom He gave His life and rose again. It's not that there was no place for Mary and Joseph. It's that there was no place FOR THEM. Shepherds aren't really high up on the socially accepted ladder either. But it's Christmas. The birth of our Lord. The birth of the Savior. For shepherds. For sinners. For you and me. And now we, who give no place, have a place. Your place is with Him. Forever. Merry Christmas, in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Sermon Topics: Luke