There was no room at the Bethlehem Inn that first Christmas eve, not even for a young lady in labor. No one seemed concerned about a pregnant teen-ager looking for a room in which to deliver her first-born. It was party time! Nary a gentleman stepped forward, willing to sacrifice the use of his room for the evening. The young couple, consigned to the dark and drafty stable, would have to fend for themselves.
Not that there was anything wrong with the Inn. These people deserved a break. Living under the jurisdiction of the Roman government was no walk in the park. An evening at the Inn was a welcome change of pace, a chance to share some holiday cheer, an opportunity to forget if only for a few moments, the challenge of living in the real world.
As a matter of fact, however, it wasn’t “holiday time.” It would be years before this evening would be celebrated. For the majority, it was just another evening and, in the manger below, just another birth. Few of them would ever know that what took place that night was the greatest event in human history.
It is difficult to describe the uniqueness of that evening. Cleaning up the new baby and preparing Him for His first meal, not even Mary and Joseph realized the impact on all humanity that would emanate from this night. Little did Joseph realize that, as he looked at the twinkling eyes of his wife’s firstborn, he was looking into the eyes of God.
It is significant that the first ones to learn of the events of that evening were shepherds. These were hard-working, salt-of-the-earth men, despised commoners, too poor and too busy to enjoy an evening at the Inn. But a host of singing angels put them on notice; something special had taken place. This was one trip to town they would never forget.
They no doubt expected to be welcomed with pomp and ceremony. The heavens had announced the birth of royalty. What they found, however, was lowing cattle, perhaps a donkey or two, and a simple manger scene. For all the hoopla, they were surely surprised to find an apparently normal, newborn baby boy. But looks were deceiving for this precious youngster, although human in the fullest sense of the word, was far from typical. He was God.
Not, I would note, like Adonis, the god of Greek mythology or Baal, the god of the Canaanites. He was no legend or the product of superstitious belief. This One came out of eternity. He had been there when the world was brought into being. He had walked with Adam, talked with Moses, and joined the three Hebrew children in Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace. God Himself had joined the human family and thirty-three years later, this God would take upon Himself the penalty for sin and make possible the promise of eternal life for people like you and me.
For those at the Inn, the party would soon be over. For the shepherds, however, it was the dawning of a new day. Their hum-drum existence had been crowned with new meaning. They were the first to have an encounter with the living Jesus, and they went home “praising God.” Fulfillment, they discovered, was not to be found in the Inn; it was to be found in a Person.
And that is the message of Christmas. Happiness … is a man called Jesus!