One of my favorite “Christmas” hymns is Joy to the World. It’s a simple but powerful song. It’s few short verses are packed with high Christology, the redemption of creation itself, and the sovereignty of Christ over all the universe.
The arrival of Emmanuel is ripe with bittersweet irony. The King of kings, the Prince of Peace, was not born in a palace, but in a stable. He was not birthed in a sterile birthing room in the maternity ward of the local hospital. His first sensations included the scent of day-old animal dung, the sound of domesticated livestock, and the scratching of dried out hay, which was likely infested with small biting insects similar to bed bugs.
God made room within this infantile body, enough room for His fullness to dwell. Yet there was no room in the town for this newborn baby. It’s even more heartbreaking to understand that it wasn’t an “inn” like a Motel 6. They were most likely trying to bunk with relatives overnight. The word often translated “inn” is more like a guest room on the upper floor of the house.
The NIV 2011 get’s it right: “There was no guest room available for them.” (Lk 2:7)
Joseph’s own family members relegate him and his full-term fiance to the basement with the animals gathered for the night. There was no room for him.
But zoom out a bit and the picture becomes even more disappointing.
“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but his own did not receive Him.” John 1:9-11
Jesus was the catalyst for creation. Without Jesus nothing would exist. The entire world was made through Him. But when He came into the world, that which was His own, His own (people) did not make room for Him. He pitched His tent alongside us, but no one welcomed Him to the neighborhood.
And yet…His current mission is to prepare room for us in the kingdom of heaven (John 14:1-4).
I also love how Isaac Watts phrased the opening line of the song: Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Not has come, not did come, not came…the Lord is come. It’s not enough to focus on the one time birth of Christ. Rather, He is in a constant state of “coming.” His coming to earth is an ongoing process, and we must always be in the process of preparing room for Jesus.
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person and they with me.” Revelation 3:20
Are the No’s still lit up on our Vacancy signs? Is there room for Christ in your heart? your home? your workplace? your ball team? Is there room for Jesus in your church?
Or is Jesus relegated to the basement…again…