What the Birth of Jesus Means Today: A Christian Perspective

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What the Birth of Jesus Means Today: A Christian Perspective

About the Author

Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes

The Reverend Dr. Morar Murray-Hayes is the Minister of Maple Grove United Church, and is a member of the Interfaith Councill of Halton. A chatty extrovert with a conversational preaching style, a multi-tasker who is a “multi-worrier” when it comes to caring about people’s problems, and a leader who treasures teaming with the lay people in her church, Morar says that at Maple Grove she has experienced “a deeper level of ministry than I thought possible.” Anyone who has personally received Morar’s deeply compassionate caring and wise counsel will testify to what an inspirational, healing and encouraging ministry it is.

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There was the little boy who was thrilled to be in the Christmas pageant, until he found out he was to be the innkeeper, who turned away Mary and Joseph. His line was, “NO!” He was horrified. It took the combined efforts of his parents and the director to get him on stage.

He waited behind a closed cardboard door until he heard the knock. He opened the door.

“Is there any room in the inn?” asked Joseph.

The innkeeper had a tortured look on his face. Then a smile dawned. “No,” he said. “But would you like to come in for cocktails?”

Each one of us is an innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus.

Making space is sometimes difficult and sometimes easy. It is easy when a new baby arrives — With a baby, you need physical space, but not much to begin with. We have time to get used to them before they are fully grown and fully formed with characters and opinions and beliefs.

So Jesus is born a baby, but doesn’t remain so.

We only have these few moments to remember him as a baby. Luke 2.1-20 Soon he will be a disobedient teen challenging the Rabbis in the temple, and when we next meet him he is full of unpopular prophecies that make us feel uncomfortable, incompetent and self-focussed.

It is usually easy to open our arms to a baby — not so much – an unshaven 30 year old with ragged clothing and an edgy message.

So we hold him off, push him out, avoid his calls.

But God has a way of breaking into our world, even when God is unexpected and unwelcome.

As James Edwards writes, “God joins us in our weakest and worst moments. There is a Divine Intruder among us.”

This God chooses to live in the world’s underside. This God loves. This God loves humanity enough to become one of us and to love us to death, even beyond death.

Despite our efforts to keep Him out, God intrudes this night. And once we accept the baby, God intrudes in many different forms.

The Bible is remarkable in its consistent preference for welcoming the stranger, the refugee. The history of the people of Israel would be different if not for the likes of the foreigner who so frequently furthers the will of God. In just one memorable incident, space is made for Ruth, the Moabite refugee, who becomes grandmother to King David and ancestor to Joseph. And Jesus is constantly making space in his ministry for the least and the lost, the vulnerable and the powerless, the ghettoized and the trapped.

We can find examples of God’s will to welcome being lived out in all kinds of places.

Liberal Jews and liberal Christians are used to working together, while recognizing that there are many in our faiths who decry what we are doing. We are used to making space for one another. But this fall even that barrier was broken. 23 Orthodox Jewish Rabbis signed a remarkable document affirming that God covenanted with Jews and Christians to perfect the world, that Christians were part of God’s plan all along.

Orthodox rabbis see that God was not rejecting Christians but rather making space for them in God’s plan. They point to signs that Christians have moved to be more welcoming as having inspired them to look differently at God’s plan.

“In imitating G-d, Jews and Christians must offer models of service, unconditional love and holiness. We are all created in G-d’s Holy Image, and Jews and Christians will remain dedicated to the Covenant by playing an active role together in redeeming the world.”

The example of liberal Christians and Jews making space has created more space for all of us to live out our faith.

Making room for God. That is what we are doing tonight. That is who we are. We welcome a baby, we welcome Jesus. Our God becomes “decked out in flesh” and yelps his way into the pain of human existence.

When we heed God’s intrusion, we find ourselves opening our arms wider.

That young innkeeper in the Christmas pageant was so anxious to welcome the sojourners that he rewrote the pageant, expanding the definition of hospitality. Mary and Joseph, refugees from Nazareth, were not to be refused a welcome.

When the urge to welcome grabs us, we rewrite the Christmas story for our time and God rejoices.

This year, making space for Jesus has taken on a national significance as we respond to what our Governor General, the Right Honourable David Johnston calls, “a defining moment in our country’s history.”

We as a country have been making space — as a church, this has been an act of faith, a response to Jesus being born in our hearts. As Christians, we are called to do this prophetically, to challenge others to join us, to push the definition of Canadian hospitality.

We have hit an obstacle to our hospitality: housing. Literally making space so that others can thrive. Our prayers are fervent that the message of the Christmas story will turn from “No room in the inn” to “would you like to come in?”

“As you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Mt.25.40

God is born in our arms this night. We are called by the carols; we are called by the wondrous, mysterious, amazing story to make space. A safe space, a welcoming space, a holy space. Space in our hearts, space in our community, space in our country, space in our world for the Christ child to enter in.

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