I’ve often talked of there being no room at the Inn as a Christmas message, one year I handed out “No Vacancy signs” to all the congregation who held them up as Mary and Joseph came up the Aisle looking for a place to stay. It was a powerful and shocking image, an image that actually caused me to well up!
This year we have been working with the homeless in Bournemouth with the Occupy movement, which has again been a fresh reminder about homelessness.
Yet I want to talk about something else, other than homelessness today.
No room at the Inn. I think can be another way of saying “there is no place for me”.
Some of you will know that awful feeling when you are lined up against a wall and two people pick teams and you are the last, or near the last one to be picked. It is a horrible feeling of being unwanted and unvalued.
Some of us (for whatever reasons) feel like misfits at times -if not all the time! We feel like we don’t belong. We feel like we don’t really fit in. Tolerated rather than celebrated.
Over the last couple of years I had a few job ‘knock-backs’ and I have been amazed at how our inner-voice attacks us and tells us we’re rubbish.
I think Mary and Joseph probably were travelling and saw all these people feasting, laughing and celebrating whilst they are trudging around in the cold.
Sometimes life seems to say “there is plenty of room at the Inn -just not for you!”
Have you ever felt really lonely, I mean desperately lonely, in a room full of people? -It is truly one of the worst kind of loneliness, a soul eating loneliness.
Or perhaps you used to fit, but now you feel like you don’t fit anymore.
Yet it is here in this place of ‘unfittingness’, for us, that the Son of God came.
The one whose first choice was normally the worlds last choice. To the kid dying inside at being the last one picked by their peers -Jesus says “I choose you!”
To the person in the crowded party feeling all alone he says “I am coming to your house for tea” (as he did to Zacchaeus).
When we are feeling broken and hopeless Jesus comes to us. We don’t have a God who only works when we are on top of the world, but a God who draws ever closer when the bottom has dropped out of our world. The God of all Hope, hope that does not disappoint us, draws close, and although his presence does not necessarily change the external factors, he does help and carry us through.
Often when I take a funeral I talk of the footsteps poem (not actually in the Bible) and talk of those moments when we feel like there is no room for us at the inn, we discover that we are being carried by Christ.
There is a wonderful verse that says “underneath it all are the ever lasting arms of love”.
Sadly at times our Churches can be cliquey and difficult, but at the essence and core of our DNA as followers of Jesus we ought to be welcoming everyone, and saying “you are welcome here!”
Isaiah says “Come all who are hungry and thirsty, come eat bread and drink wine without cost”.
A wonderful image I was given at theological college by one of our lecturers, John Kelly, who said “too often communion is like a la carte fine dining with everything set out beautifully… but lets start thinking of it as a feast with long tables and benches and we say ‘budge up there is room for another one'”.
In my curacy parish one of our Churches had had as Rector a guy called George Herbert who wrote a poem “love bade me welcome” about Christ welcoming us and inviting him to join us as we feast.
My prayer is for all of us who feel like misfits, who don’t fit -or no longer fit- that we will experience a fresh encounter and revelation of the one who matters most; who chooses and calls us by name into his arms of love.
And my challenge is to be people that break the cycle for others, be Christians with open arms and walls removed, and let the welcome of Christ touch all who we meet this Christmas as an touch and taste of heaven.