᛭ INI ᛭
What are you doing here? Yes, I really did just ask that question. What a question! It’s a fair question for all of us. So, let’s go with it. Why are you here? Why are any of us here?
There’s many ways to answer that question. There’s known and unknown reasons. Pure and impure motives. Good and bad situations. Really the answers fall into two camps. There’s the way of faith and grace, and the the way of law and works, of custom, of obligation, of tradition, of the program, of family, of habit, of always just coming.
But non of that matters. Christmas isn’t about the traditions, the customs, the presents, the trees. It isn’t about angels or shepherds or Mary and Joseph. It isn’t about if you say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays or Season’s Greetings or anything else. It’s about something far more important. The proof or sign or evidence that it’s not about any of that is “the babe lying in a manger.” But the reason for the manger is the deeper joy…but that’s to get a little ahead of myself.
“Of course you can say all those things. It’s easy for you, pastor. You’re religious.” Am I? Being religious is the way of works, often a human definition of what that means, which allows us to compare us to each other rather than to what God’s Word actually says.
Truth is I’m here because I actually believe that what the angels sing is good news. (Good news enough to sing whenever there’s communion.) Truth is I can’t justify my belief to you, but it is my belief that justifies me before God. I’m betting the farm on Jesus, that there is no other help, no hope, happiness, in this life or the life to come, outside of Jesus.
“I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
The baby in the manger is your God, your Christ, your Lord. We celebrate the birth of a God who didn’t shy away from His people, but willingly came to rest in a feed trough, be crowned with thorns, be enthroned on a cross, and sleep in a tomb. The God-baby born to grow into the God-man to died and came back to life. He makes us alive by faith in these things through His Word and His Flesh and Blood. (He makes these promises not me.) These are the “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”
But let’s return to our original question, now. What are you doing here? You don’t have to justify the reason to me, but to Him who sits no longer in a manger but the throne of heaven ruling the universe, your very heartbeat, this moment. But the question put to you this evening is one that does actually point us back to events of some 2,000 years ago and the promises of Jesus the Savior for you.
“What are you doing here?” or some similar question—it seems—is something Joseph had to endure on his trip to Bethlehem. Mary laid Jesus in manger. Why? Not because there was “no room in the inn,” the upper room, the guest house. Whatever sort of lodgings could have been available to Joseph among his relatives in Bethlehem.
But the Bible, which actually is God’s Word, doesn’t say there was “no room in the in.” God’s Word says something else. The historical details given for our comfort… Now we get to the deeper joy of why there was a manger at all. “And she gave birth to her firstborn son … and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room FOR THEM (αὐτοῖς) in the inn.”
His relatives, the house and lineage of David, could all do the math. They all thought they knew what was going on, but so it was that our Lord and God, when He came was born for sinners, and so there wasn’t room for Him. Already bearing the condemnation and accusation of sinners as an infant. Kept outside. Placed in stone or wood feed trough. (A prefiguring of His cross or tomb.) Because of what He does for sinners, we come to a completely different answer to the question. (The reason to bet your life, your very soul and those of your family on Jesus.)
The deeper and hidden joy of the manger, of Jesus being there because “there was no room FOR THEM in the inn” is that He makes room and place and standing and name and adoption FOR YOU. You’ve actually got a place in God’s house. In fact, “He rules the world with truth and grace,” so that there is this specific place, that specific pew, my specific mouth, and your specific ears—Jesus did all that. (Just like the angel to the shepherds.)
Just as Jesus was meant to be born in Bethlehem. (God made Caesar tax the empire so it would happen.) Just as the shepherds were meant to hear. So, You are meant to be here, just as I am.
That is the Lord’s way of doing things. The way of His grace and mercy and forgiveness for you. He reverses things, swaps places with you. He becomes your outcast at Bethlehem, your sin-payment at Calvary, your coming-back-to-life-after-your-dead at His tomb. And the Bible, Sermons, and His Supper, each in their own way, deliver those things for free to you. “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.” (The shepherdy way of faith.)
So, why are we here? Well, Mary may have “laid Him in a manger, because there was no room FOR THEM (αὐτοῖς) in the inn.” But, because of Him doing that, you are sitting in pew, because here there is room FOR YOU in His Kingdom.