It wasn't as nice as it is depicted in children’s Christmas pageants. The Christmas story is undercut by shame, struggle, and humiliation. For example, there was “no room for them in the motel.” This does not mean there was no room, but that there was no room for them.
Why is there no room for Joseph and Mary? Bethlehem is Joseph's hometown. Mary is pregnant. Why is there no room for them? Did none of Joseph’s family have a guest bedroom? Was the whole countryside so excited to pay taxes that this tiny, unimportant town a half an hour's walk from Jerusalem was full up, with no vacancies? Middle Easterners are famous for their hospitality, so how is it that no one will share a room with them?
There was no room for them because of consequences. Joseph's fiance is suddenly pregnant. Rumor has it, it's not even his baby, but he doesn't call off the marriage. He doesn't call for her to be stoned to death (which, at the time, was his legal right). Joseph doesn't do the ethical thing. Instead, he spares his fiance the deathly consequences of her pregnancy. He covers her shame. He enters into the struggle with her. As a consequence, there's no room at the motel for Joseph and Mary, lest Bethlehem's daughters be given wildly inappropriate, immoral ideas.
So, there's no room for Joseph and Mary. They can't even find shelter at the sort of motel that conjures images of shady drug deals in the parking lot and one-hour rates for prostitutes. It’s a dark world for Joseph and Mary. It's a dark world for us too. And our only hope is the shoot from Jesse’s stem that grows up through the concrete. A shoot that thirty-some-years later will produce the fruit of life on a tree of death. It's a dark world because we fail to see God in the littlest and least of all people, the baby Jesus. Jesus, born to Mary. The young, pregnant woman who's shamed by Bethlehem's people. The mother of God who's told that there are consequences to what she's done. There are consequences to getting pregnant outside of marriage, and so there's no room for her or Joseph.
At Christmas, we hear the story of our salvation, but it’s not pretty.
That’s the true story about Christmas. Christmas is the time when we celebrate the birth of our Savior, but it's a story that's undercut by shame, struggle, and humiliation. At Christmas, we hear the story of our salvation, but it’s not pretty.
Christmas is the time when we stop to remember the shame, struggle, and humiliation of Joseph and Mary. They are given no room. Not that there's no room, but that there's no room for them. Joseph and Mary, and the unborn baby who comes to save the littlest, the last, the lost, and the dead. Christmas is also the time when we stop to give thanks to God for Jesus’ birth. Jesus comes to save a world that's dark, lost, and hopeless. Jesus comes to save us.
At Jesus' birth, God says "no more." No more darkness, no more lostness, and no more hopelessness for us. Instead, a child is born who rescues us from darkness, and lostness, and hopelessness. God gives us His Son, and the authority of God is upon His shoulders. His name is called "The Almighty God plans grace," and, "The Eternal Father is a peaceful ruler."
And so, in the midst of shame and struggle and humiliation, there's Jesus, God's grace and peace. There is always grace and peace with Him no matter how great our shame, no matter how difficult the struggle, and no matter how low we sink into humiliation. With Jesus, there is always room for us to come and find rest today and always.