December 24, 2024 Christmas Eve
Let me tell three stories. A personal story and two Jesus stories.
- When I was six old my mom and I were living in a car in Seward, Alaska
- Car broke down
- The story eventually ends with being put in foster care
- But for at least 1 night, we were taken in
The last week of Jesus' life.
7 Then the day of Unleavened Bread came. That was the time the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 Jesus sent Peter and John on ahead. “Go,” he told them. “Prepare for us to eat the Passover meal.”
9 “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked.
10 Jesus replied, “When you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house he enters. 11 Then say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks, “Where is the guest room? Where can I eat the Passover meal with my disciples?” ’ 12 He will show you a large upstairs room with furniture already in it. Prepare for us to eat there.”
Jesus, subversive at the last. Because who does he ask to prepare the meal. Peter and John. Two men.
Guest Room - Kataluma. The place where you let loose. Let your hair down.
Last meal. Surrounded by friends (and maybe an enemy, or at least a disillusioned frenemy). Men, women, children. All in a borrowed guest room.
Now, why do I bring up this story on Christmas. Well, we have to go back to the beginning Luke's Gospel, in Luke 2.
In those days, Caesar Augustus made a law. It required that a list be made of everyone in the whole Roman world. 2 It was the first time a list was made of the people while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 Everyone went to their own town to be listed.
4 So Joseph went also. He went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea. That is where Bethlehem, the town of David, was. Joseph went there because he belonged to the family line of David. 5 He went there with Mary to be listed. Mary was engaged to him. She was expecting a baby. 6 While Joseph and Mary were there, the time came for the child to be born. 7 She gave birth to her first baby. It was a boy. She wrapped him in large strips of cloth. Then she placed him in a manger. That’s becausehere was no place for them in the guestroom.
Now, you may have grown up hearing this story told a little differently. About there being no room at the inn. Maybe the story of a grumpy innkeeper, kicking a pregnant story out.
But the word here is kataluma again. The kataluma was full. The guestroom, the normal place where your family and friends would stay.
But that's not what Luke says. I realize we're pushing back against centuries of tradition here. But I want to paint a different image.
- The imperial bureaucracy makes everyone go to their hometown.
- Joseph and Mary, their lives already in an uproad due to an unexpected pregnancy, forced to travel.
- They get to Bethelehem. Joseph has family there. They get to their cousin's house.
- Oh no. The guestroom, the kataluma is already full.
- But, the family says, it's okay, come on in anyway. We'll make room.
- Now the place where to have make room is in the center of the home. A little courtyard, with no roof, where you might keep a goat or a hen. The rooms of the home look into the middle. A rich home would have two levels, rooms looking down.
- Is it glorious? No. Is it an act of radical hospitality? Absolutely it is.
- This month we've been asking—and attempting to answer—the question, How does a weary world rejoice? We sing songs of hope together. We find joy in community. We name our weariness, we don't ignore it.
- Finally, we make room. We make room for our weariness and our rejoicing. We make room for the grief and the gladness.
- We make room in the large guest rooms, surrounded by family and friends, even when one friend will deny, another friend betray, another friend knowing their death is near.
- We make room for the stranger.
- We shun busyness. We betray our culture's temptation of gluttony, of being too full for anyone else or any other emotion but exhaustion.
- Sometimes making room means casting everything but the essential overboard.
- Sometimes making room means standing room only, awkwardly leaning against the wall with your plate and wine glass because every table is full.
- Sometimes making room means casting aside every belief that has caused us pain and clinging to the one belief that matters—Yes, Jesus loves me.
- Sometimes making room means embracing the person who hurt you and wants to make amends; and sometimes making room means saying farewell to those who want to keep hurting you.
- Making room takes wisdom. And conversation. And attempts and failures and messiness and serendipitous accidental beauty. Making room means giving up perfection. Better a messiah born into a manger than in the street.
- When we don't make room, we risk too much. Families in the cold.
As on a Day of Festival by Jan Richardson
the waters of salvation
or the garlands of gladness.
or call it the loosing
of the chains.
what binds us together:
he will rejoice over you
he will renew you
in his love;
he will exult over you
with loud singing
as on a day
the thin, thin place
where the veil
Or call it this:
the path we make
when we go deep
and deeper still
into the dark
and look behind to see
the way has been lit
by our rejoicing.