She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. ~ Luke 2:7
Every year a different word or phrase from the Christmas story jumps out to me. Perhaps this happens to you as well. This year, I can’t get these words out of my mind: “no guest room available.” There was “no guest room available” to welcome a humble pregnant teenager and her fiancé.
Before we start judging the residents of first century Bethlehem, maybe we should each ask ourselves, would we have welcomed them? It’s not like she was wearing a cute maternity shirt that said, “He’s not kicking. He’s filled with the Holy Spirit!” or “He’s not just any baby. He’s the Son of God.”
Joking aside, a closer look reveals that Mary’s condition may be the reason they weren’t welcome. She was pregnant, and they were not married. People probably thought that she had behaved promiscuously and so they would have ostracized them. This happened in antiquity, and we do this all the time in modernity too. But should we?
James A. Harnish reveals that “Luke used the same Greek word to describe the guest room in which there was no room for Jesus to be born and the guest room which he shared the Passover with his disciples on the night before he died. The One for whom there was no guest room in Bethlehem now invites his followers into the guest room where, as the host at the table, he takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them.” (When God Comes Down: An Advent Study for Adults, 36).
Isn’t this ironic?
Jesus left an indescribably amazing place called heaven to come to earth. People had no “guest room” for Him here, and yet, he went on to do his best work in a “guest room” by making space for people to partake of His body and blood. Regardless of where they had been or what they had done, he welcomed them and showed them the way to life. Then he departed to prepare a place for all who would receive him and gave his followers (and that includes us) a singular mission: love! In plain terms, we must welcome others as He welcomed us.
How welcoming are we?
Most people don’t like to welcome strangers. They don’t appreciate interruptions. And they don’t fancy being inconvenienced by those who appear to have made poor decisions (as if they have never made a poor decision). To have a guest room available is to create margin in order to fulfill our mission.
Jeff Spadafora rightly notes: “No margin. No mission. You won’t experience purpose, meaning, and joy if you don’t create margin in your calendar to proactively make changes in your life. And creating margin is hard work.” (The Joy Model: A Step-by-Step Guide to Peace, Purpose, and Balance, 42-43).
For some people, finding margin means setting aside time on a regular basis to commune with God because you have been so busy you have not had space for personal study of God’s Word and prayer. If you feel like you are running on empty, it’s because you are. Come to Jesus. Make it a routine. Find rest and refreshment for living!
For families, building margin might appear as living within a budget so you have bandwidth to bless others. This may mean saying “No” to some purchases or commitments so you can say “Yes” to other things, perhaps better things.
But even if we spend time with God and have resources and time set aside to serve others, often we miss Jesus because we may not have eyes to see Him in the needy people around us. Whether as an individual, a couple, or as a family, I’d suggest a daily rhythm of asking the Holy Spirit to help you find Jesus in your daily routine.
Organizations must create margin too. This may happen through setting aside time for corporate prayer to discern how God may be directing you collectively to do work that He has prepared in advance for you to do. It might also come into view as making budgetary decisions that set aside resources for unexpected ministry opportunities.
In our lives, with our families, and at our organizations, let’s make a guest room available! It’s more than a place. It’s a hospitable posture that positions us to live on mission.
Gary G. Hoag, Ph.D. (New Testament, Trinity College, Bristol, UK), serves as a visiting professor at TEDS and Northern Seminary and ECFA Press Author/International Liaison among other roles. He is known widely as “the Generosity Monk” because he has dedicated his life to encouraging Christian generosity. His most recent book published by the Institute for Biblical Research is Wealth in Ancient Ephesus and the First Letter to Timothy.
As you consider the new year, consider the difference it would make to begin it with a life-on-life mentoring relationship!
The 1:1 Outcomes Mentoring experience provides a pathway for a leader with specific needs to be matched and connected with another leader who is willing to guide, coach and mentor the one in need. Mentors lend the knowledge and the expertise others seek. Following the pattern found in scripture, wise leaders look for opportunities to give of their time and talent to strengthen others.