An Inconvenient Baby

Title: An Inconvenient Baby

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Text: Luke 2:1-7, Matthew 2:16-18

Date: December 28th, 2008

Today is the first Sunday after Christmas 2008 and I hope you’ve all had a very merry Christmas this year. Before we leave the Christmas season, I’d like to give one more message on Christmas, one more message about the birth of the baby Jesus. The passage is Luke 2:1-7 (read). The key verse being Luke 2:6-7, “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she (Mary) gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the Inn.” I was reading along in one of the many commentaries I have on the Bible in my collection of Christian books. I was reading to see what the different authors and commentators say about the Christmas accounts found in Matthew and Luke, and I ran across one writer whose point was that not only was the problem in Bethlehem that there was no room for the baby Jesus, but the same problem exists today – there is still no room in most people’s heart for Jesus. I love it when I find a little piece of wisdom in some book or resource because I know I’ll be able to use it sometime in the future in a sermon or teaching. That’s why I try to go to a used book sale and browse used bookstores for Christian books because I just might find something that I can use in preparing a message some time in the future. This particular truth I found in a commentary I bought here at the Jamestown Public Library used book sale a couple of years ago. I think I was able to buy the big hardback volume for one dollar or so. But anyway, as I was saying, I was reading along in this particular Bible commentary and ran across this observation – just like the Inn Keeper, most people today still have no room for Jesus in their lives because they are already full of other things in their lives. Most people don’t out rightly reject Jesus, but mostly they reject Jesus indirectly by simply making little or no room in their lives for him. That’s easy to do because life today in the twenty-first century is certainly busy and full of things to do. In the old days, life was simpler and easier to manage because there weren’t as many distractions as there are today. Today with television, computers, video games, radio and the Internet, it’s easy to spend hours and hours on these things instead of other things. Today, many people work long distances from where they live, so there’s commute time, travel time, hours and hours in the car, train or bus going from here to there, and back again. Then there is everything to do in the home. Even with modern convenience appliances, the more time saving devices we have, the more time it frees us to do – more time consuming things. It just seems that the pace of life is speeding up faster and faster, so that it isn’t necessary to out rightly reject Jesus, he can easily be neglected in sea of other things in our lives. So with that as the basic point, let me unpack this theme and see if I can’t remind us all to be careful to leave room for Jesus in our lives this coming New Year.

First, there are those who do reject Jesus consciously. Matthew 2:16-18, “When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave order to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.’” Like I said before, most people don’t out rightly and consciously reject Jesus in their lives, but some do. We’ve seen a number of books come out in the past couple of years written by atheists who are determined not only to reject Jesus and Christianity but recruit others to reject him also. Authors like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, have all written books that not only reject Jesus but evangelize others to reject him as well. These are people who out rightly reject Jesus. But most people who are not living their lives for Jesus and are not following Jesus in life do not take this direct approach; they don’t have to. But you run into people every once in a while who do take this conscious, deliberate, direct approach to rejecting Jesus. People like, for example, the comedian and television talk-show host Bill Maher. Maher directed and produced a documentary movie called Religulous which makes fun of and mocks believers in Jesus, while at the same time mocking and making fun of Jesus himself. This is out right blasphemy, but that doesn’t bother Mahr because he rejects Jesus and doesn’t care if it offends followers of Jesus. He’s trying to persuade and recruit people to join him in mocking faith in Christ and instead follows the worldview of science and atheism. He thinks that science demands atheism, which it does not, but that’s what he thinks. And you’ll meet people like this from time to time, who openly and out rightly reject Jesus. But like I said before, they are the exception, because most people don’t reject Jesus in this way. But then how do most people reject Jesus?

Second, there are the vast majorities who reject Jesus indirectly through neglect. Luke 2:6-7, “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she (Mary) gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the Inn.” Like I said before, the Inn Keeper represents most people who reject Jesus through neglect. He didn’t have anything personal against Jesus. He wasn’t out right hostile towards Jesus or his followers, or put in terms of that first Christmas, he had nothing personal against a baby like Jesus being born, or for the mother Mary or for Joseph the supposed father. No. He had no anger or animosity towards Jesus. In fact, he didn’t know anything about Jesus, who he was or what he represented, nor did he particularly care. He was taking care of business, what he normally did. He was going about his life in the usual way, and there’s no sin or nothing wrong with that. In fact, he was just making a living as an Inn Keeper, registering people to stay at his Inn and unfortunately turning people away when he was full up. He had probably turned others away that night from the Inn, so he wasn’t singling Jesus, Mary and Joseph out for spite. Of course, he didn’t know that Jesus was anything special. But isn’t that the way it is with the vast majority of people who reject Jesus passively by neglect? Don’t they all have legitimate excuses to offer as to why they can’t be bothered by Jesus because of the many other activities and commitments they have in life? When I became a pastor in the late 80s I found that a popular, perhaps the most popular excuse people used to give for not attending church on Sunday was, “I have to work,” or “Sunday is the only day off I have where I don’t have to work and I just don’t want to get myself up in the morning, I just want to have a day of rest where I don’t have any place to go or anything to do.” Some actually quote the Bible to justify non-participation, “Sunday is my Sabbath day of rest, so I rest. I don’t go anywhere, I just take it easy around the house.” So the Bible is used against going to a house of worship to pray, praise God, hear God’s Word and encourage and be encouraged in the faith. That’s not what God intended when he gave us the day of rest, but it’s used that way by people who have too many things in their lives and don’t take time for the best thing in life – God. Modern living is so busy these days that many or even most people don’t have time for God, that is, time to pray, time to worship, time to hear God’s words to us from the Bible, etc. There’s no room in the Inn. Look at your life and I’ll look at mine. Are we full up with things and activities? Are theses things crowding out God? Do we have time for God in prayer? Do we welcome God’s Word the Bible into our lives? Or like the Inn Keeper, do we turn God away because we are full up? It’s a good question to ask ourselves from time to time. Am I rejecting God through neglect?

Third, there are the few who actively welcome Jesus into their lives. Luke 1:26-56, “. . . ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered, ‘May it be to me as you have said’ . . .” Of course the model of a receptive, Christ-welcoming person is Mary the mother of Jesus. She and Joseph welcomed the baby Jesus into the world. For Joseph it took a little bit of persuasion with the help of an angel in a dream, but eventually he joined Mary in welcoming Jesus into his life. Then, also, others came to welcome Jesus into the world, others, such as the shepherds and the wise men. These are the people who serve as good role models for all Christians to copy. They are the ones who didn’t reject Jesus, either actively or passively, but rather welcomed him actively. These are the ones who went out of their way to welcome Jesus. They inconvenienced themselves to accommodate him. Is that what you do towards Jesus? Do you inconvenience yourself for God. We all have many things to do and many places to see and people to see, etc. But do we inconvenience ourselves to follow Jesus in life? We all have to work, we all have daily activities, obligations and commitments, but do we inconvenience ourselves to follow Jesus or do we let our many other activities and interests keep us from prayer, from hearing God’s word in the Bible, from worship and praise to God, from regular church attendance and participation, etc. It isn’t hard to justify neglecting Jesus. Just like the Inn Keeper there are always reasons why we don’t have room for Jesus in our lives. There is always an excuse, and in many cases, good excuses why we can’t follow Jesus in life. There are always pressing things in life. But are we willing to inconvenience ourselves for the sake of Jesus to worship him and pray to him and bring him into our lives. A few years ago former Vice-President Al Gore made a documentary movie called An Inconvenient Truth. Well, we might use that title to describe the birth of Jesus called An Inconvenient Baby, because from one perspective Jesus was inconvenient because there just wasn’t any room at the Inn, his birth was at an inconvenient time. Jesus is still inconvenient today for many or most people because their lives already are full of their own interests, activities, priorities, etc. If Jesus were to come and stay with them it would be inconvenient. They’d have to change their lives to accommodate Jesus. Many or most people don’t want that, so they basically turn Jesus away indirectly, like the Inn Keeper. As we look to the New Year 2009, let’s examine our own lives and make sure that we never, ever turn Jesus away because of our own interests and activities apart from him. Let’s change our lives to welcome Jesus into our lives in a greater way in the New Year.

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