And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
If you asked me for my definition of the church I think I would describe it in this way: the church is the community of God which, following the pattern of the founder, chooses to be outside for the sake of those who are outside through no choice of their own.
As such we are the community which readily identifies with the poor and the marginalized, the outsider. The community which gives shelter to the homeless, food to the hungry, clothing to the naked and companionship to the lonely and isolated.
We do so after the pattern of Jesus who, we are reminded this time every year, chose a lowly position for the sake of those the world had despised.
But this is a hard truth to us, for here is the uncomfortable lesson of the first Christmas, here is the stone in the shoe of the church, that irritable hard reality that upsets us.
The unborn jesus, in the womb of Mary and in the company of Joseph, comes home, to the place where he can reasonably expect a welcome, and there is no room.
Jesus comes to his own, who have been reading and studying and preaching and worshipping about him for generations, and his own do not welcome him. There is no room.
Here in Advent in 2009 we must face again the possibility that WE are the ones who have no room.
We are the ones who do not receive him. Because he does not fit our pre-conceived theologies, our understandings of how he must be and how he will act and who he blesses.
And so he finds his place among those who are not welcome here with us. Our equivalent of the blind, the lame and the sinners. Jesus is out there among those who are being crucified by the world – perhaps because they don’t conform, or their preferences are other than ours or what we would like. While we continually lament his absence and spend fortunes seeking him in conferences, books, church services and projects. And all the while he is calling us, as he does again this Advent, to go out and to meet him where he already is. On the outside.
[photo from here]