Every Christmas Eve, my kids open up one present. Though they pretend to be shocked by what’s inside, we all giggle and say “I wonder what it could be” while the kids unwrap a new pair of pajamas.
The scene is set in our house. It’s methodical. Christmas music plays softly in the background, the tree twinkles in the corner and from the oven, you can smell the warm makings of some concoction of sugar, butter and flour.
I am a tad bit convicted here. This is my favorite feeling of the entire year. It is a place of warmth, comfort, albeit routine. We tuck the kids neatly into their beds, and the feelings (yes, feelings) of Christmas waft over our peaceful house. It feels right. It feels like home. It feels like I’m setting aside the rest of the year and choosing to make a mental and literal place for peace.
When I was a child, I loved hearing how Joseph and Mary rode into Bethlehem. I mentally skipped over the part that they were registering for the census because Joseph was in the lineage of David. I focused on the part where Mary gives birth to a baby boy, wraps him up in cloth and lays him in a feeding trough. I always thought about how there was no guest room available for them. No place for Jesus or his parents. I thought about the cloths he was wrapped in. No Target tags to rip off before they dressed his clean body in new red and green threads.
Now as a Christian adult, I’m still focusing on the arrival of Jesus and this notion that there wasn’t a place for him, but I’m so much more convicted of what that means in my own heart.
The Christmas story is about the arrival of our Savior, the Prince of Peace, as we so love to call him. We see from the lineage of David, and everything from the Old Testament leading up to this one miraculous event, that the Father God had always been preparing a place for him. God promised to prepare for Jesus, and he did that so that Jesus could prepare a place for us.
As the ministry of Jesus unfolded, we saw him prepare a place for the hungry, the afflicted, the sinners. We then went on to prepare a new place for him at the end of his ministry.
While he was preparing a place for us in the kingdom of God, we were preparing a place for him to hang on a tree to be crucified. Then, his disciples prepared a place for him in a tomb, again wrapping him up in cloth.
Time after time we’d find Jesus in the most humbling of places, from a vulnerable baby wrapped in rags to a dying man displayed in front of a crowd of sinners. He started his ministry wrapped in cloth, and he ended his time on earth that way too.
So, it gets me thinking: when I’m preparing a place for Jesus today, what does that look like?
Have I prepared a place for him in my family traditions?
“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them” (Luke 2: 4-7).
When we hear the Christmas story, we must focus on the generation by generation lineage that led even to Joseph. From Abraham to Joseph, these families passed down knowledge of God.
Preparing a place for Jesus is about preparing a place for God to fulfill his promises. It’s about acknowledging that Jesus was the embodiment of those promises being fulfilled. It’s about us taking that journey on a figurative donkey to the place where we have to answer the census. The sometimes uncomfortable and humble journey toward checking the box that says we have signed up to be part of that lineage, to learn from the generations who went before us in scripture and decide how we will prepare a place for our savior.
Have I prepared a place for Jesus in my own heart?
We may say, “Yes, I’ve accepted Jesus. He’s in my heart.” But have we all made a place for the character of Jesus to reign within us? We call Jesus the Prince of Peace but does that peace reign in the hearts of his people? We call Jesus the King of Kings, but have you enthroned him in your own life? We call him the Waymaker, but our own personality and routines are constantly getting in his way.
We can ask this question about our calendars, our wallets, our state and country laws. There’s nothing inherently wrong about celebrating in new pajamas, or any other tradition that we may create. Celebrating is one step in the right direction. But preparing a place for Jesus should be something so engrained in us that we live in that peace all year around.