What it would be like if Jesus had been born today on the streets of a suburban community just outside a major city? If the hotels were full of people come for some major event (here I’d suspect it was a Superbowl) and they could find no where to stay for the night.
I’ve had this image stuck in my head for days of Joseph driving a car and Mary in the passenger seat driving hotel to motel. Frustrated they pull into a small parking garage and try and rest their eyes a bit, when Mary’s labor pains start. Their poor, they don’t have health insurance, no money to pay doctors and they really aren’t sure where the hospital is because they don’t live here. So Joseph pulls the blankets out of the trunk and stays by her side through the hours of labor. And in their greatest moment of fear, comes forth a child, the One promised to be the Messiah. Right there in the corner of a parking garage.
I sat in a church last night among over a hundred brothers and sisters in the Lord all gazing upon the performance of Christmas songs and I wondered if we were missing Christmas in a parking garage somewhere. Somewhere some young woman was giving birth not among her family or the safety of a hospital but alone in a bathroom or in some other unfit place. I wondered how many Joseph’s are out there confused about whether the child was really ‘theirs’. Most of all, I wondered if we had stood up, gone out and searched for them, if we could have brought them the peace, comfort and joy the choirs sang about.
And it isn’t just the Mary’s and Joseph’s, it’s the hardworking, unappreciated shepherds scorned by society. Their opinion is never sought when it comes to public affairs, yet God reaches out to them first. How many people do we discount as not having a role in Christmas? Do we invite the homeless, the migrant workers, the janitors and garbage men to come and join the feast in our fellowship halls? How many strangers do we invite into the doors of our homes and our churches and when we do, do we listen to their stories? Then I see the wise men coming, those who believe differently than we do, but look on at this curiosity we call Christmas. And they scratch their heads as we fight over Black Friday sales and focus on the parties, the presents, and the pageantry of decorating. I wonder if they ask where is the Christ in Christmas that we argue so ardently for them to acknowledge?
Then I remember, He’s back in that parking garage with that young man and woman who are lost and afraid of what lies ahead for them. And if we are not careful, we will miss our opportunity to encounter Him this Christmas. We’ll walk right by that teen mother desperate for a reassuring smile. We’ll drive past those men standing in the cold praying for work so they can put food on the table that might soon be taken by the property owner because he cannot make the rent. If we are not careful, we will stay inside our warm homes and pretty churches and think that He will come to us and we’ll only get to see His glory pass by on His way to be with those who are crying out for someone to save them.
Where have you seen Christ this Christmas? Where have you reached out and shown His grace and love to strangers? Share your stories.