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  National
No Room for the Christ-child
By Carlton U. Forbes
Staff Writer & Columnist
An artist's rendition of Nativity

Since leaving Jamaica in 1981, I have had the privilege of visiting ten countries on three continents. During my travels, I have been a guest in guesthouses, hotels, inns, and private homes. Naturally, at the hotels and inns, I am usually treated like a paid guest—no extraordinary efforts on my behalf. However, in most of the private homes I have stayed in, I was treated like an honored special guest. Most of my hosts were especially accommodating, friendly, and hospitable. There were times, I wanted to stay longer, my schedule required me to journey on.

Actually, one of my friends in the US gave me a key to his house. Regretfully, since then, I have not had the chance to return and use that key. Pity!

Even in my childhood years, I’ve always enjoyed going to new places. I'm especially fond of visiting fascinating places I’ve heard of or read about. Nowadays, with my I-Pad or smart phone in hand, I take pictures of the places I've visited, and capture personal snapshots travel memories. Then, at the end of a long sightseeing tour, there is nothing more satisfying than checking into a nice, clean and comfortable room for a quiet rest and peaceful slumber.

Recently, Business Insider did a ranking of the best hotels in the world. Kauri Cliffs in New Zealand is ranked Number one for the most satisfactory accommodations. Kauri Cliffs Hotel and Resort is a luxurious comfort castle on 6,000 acres of beachfront, surrounded by enchanting natural sceneries. It offers amenities like a private beach, waterfall, nature trails, a farm, golf course, and private pools, just to name a few.

Moreover, it has warm, tranquil, clean, and exquisitely decorated rooms to please the most finicky guest with lavished creature comforts. Most likely, on the night of Jesus’ Nativity, Mary and Joseph did not expect to find lodging in even the most ordinary room at Kauri Cliffs. What they had in mind was an economy-class shelter where they could rest and refresh themselves after their long, tiresome journey. Such a room could have been one of the smaller units at ‘Bethlehem Budget Inn.’

According to Luke's gospel, Mary and Joseph, were commanded by a Roman decree to make an unplanned visit to their birthplace—Bethlehem of Judea. Luke records an interesting account of that unusual trip.

1. At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire.

2. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)

3. All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.

4. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David,
he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.

5. He took with him Mary, his wife, who was now obviously pregnant.

6. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born.

7. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him
snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because
there was no lodging available for them—(Luke 2:1-7).

Being a small town carpenter, Joseph could not afford a luxurious room like one of those at Kauri Cliffs hotel and Resort.

Considering his socio-economic status, His best option was a clean and comfortable place where Mary could deliver the Christ-child. Unfortunately, the Holiday Inn at Bethlehem was completely booked.

The same was true at the 'Judea Suites,' Choson Hotel, Hotel Novotel, Marriott and Ritz Carlton. All those places displayed the unwelcoming sign, “No room!” “No vacancy! “

With an exhausted and weary wife just moments from going into labor, Joseph thought that perhaps, Motel 6 would have at least one room remaining. However, when he got there, the same unreceptive sign was posted out front—“No room!” “No vacancy! “Across the street was a Super 8, bustling with guests who had arrived earlier, and got all the remaining rooms, even the one reserved for the manager. Next door to Super 8 was ‘Peasant Suites.’ Regretfully, in the front was that uninviting sign hanging from a pole. “No room!” “No vacancy! “

After her long journey on a donkey, Mary said to Joseph, 'Yoboe, my water broke; I cannot stay on this donkey any longer.' Hearing this, Joseph realized that he had no good options. He had to consider inquiring about an animal shed, which would provide some shelter, and a place to assist Mary in her discomforting ordeal. With that, he inquired about the one at ‘Peasant Suites,’ and was told it was available. They went in, led some of the animals out of the way, spread fresh hay on a crude barn stand, where Mary went into labor and gave birth to her firstborn. Oh, how disheveled Joseph and Mary must have been, to experience their newborn's arrival in the company of donkeys, camels, horses and mules.

On that Blessed night, God’s Begotten Son, the promised Messiah, was born in a barn. That event fulfilled the prophecy, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him”—(John 1:11). Inside the animal shelter, Joseph took a handful of hay, used it to line the feeding trough, where Mary laid the princely infant. This act brought into fulfillment the angelic announcement to the shepherd. “You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger”—(Luke 2:12).

What a pity! No room for David’s offspring, mankind’s Redeemer, whose birth was prophesied centuries before. No room for the Savior of the world; no room for Israel’s Royal offspring. There should have been a grand coronation or welcoming party for the kingly infant. There should have been a lovely nursery prepared and waiting for them when they arrived in Bethlehem.

Sadly, no such consideration was given to them. Actually, the mayor, governor, and Roman Tribune were unaware of that sacred event—nativity of the Christ-child. No government official paid homage to the princely birth; no community or ranking member of society visited to mark that special day. Likewise, no welcoming banner was unfolded in their honor, and no room was made available to them. Christ the Lord was born in a stable, with a lowly manger as his crib.

Despite this ignoble reception, Jesus wants to be born in our hearts today. Is there a room within the cavity of our being for Him? Are we ready to open up our heart’s door, to let him in; or are we willing to shun him like an unwanted intruder? Do we give the best room to our friends and loved-ones, and ask him to make himself comfortable in a secluded corner of our hearts? Do we give him the smallest, least suitable place in our lives?

Recently, I had the opposite experience to Mary and Joseph’s in Seoul. During an unplanned visit, my family and I were prepared to get a hotel that night. However, a family invited us to stay in their home unexpectedly. They gave us and our kids their master bedroom, with a private bath, so we would be comfortable. They fed us and helped us to special treats to take home with us as well. We all felt like special guests, showered with generosity and hospitality.

While driving back to Busan, the gracious favors of my hosts caused me to wander about that night in Bethlehem. As I reflected on Luke’s description of the begotten birth, a few questions came to my mind. Had Joseph and Mary showed up at our door, unannounced, would we have taken them in? Are we willing to give Jesus the best room available in our hearts and our lives today? Even now, do we make room for Jesus in our homes? Do we invite Him in and make Him feel welcome only on Christmas? Do we honor him on religious days like Christmas and Easter, and ignore him once the holiday ends?

On that blessed night, Jesus was born as a baby in a very humble place. Mankind prepared no room for Him at that time. Sadly, even today, many homes and palatial dwellings still lack a welcoming place for the savior. Nevertheless, Christ was born as Mary's Boy-child, suckled in Mary's bosom, and dutifully obeyed his earthly parents. During his youthful years, the Christ-child grew in wisdom, and stature, in favor with God and man. He learned the trade of a carpenter, visited the temple in Jerusalem, and reasoned with the scribes and scholars.

As he grew into manhood, he was known as the Son of Man, who called the twelve, and promised to make them “fishers of men.” Jesus lived the life of a commoner, walked from hamlets to villages, from cities to small towns, showed compassion to peasants and nobles, healed, taught, and exemplifid the true nature of a caring, gracious, tender-loving savior.

Most importantly, Jesus made room in his life for children, and rebuked his disciples for their insensitivity towards such little ones. Christ the Lord found room in his heart for Lazarus, Martha and the Woman of Samaria, along with Mary Magdalene. Christ made room in his busy schedule for Blind Bartimeous, the 10 lepers, an in-firmed stranger, invalids and Zacheous, the small-statured tax collector.

Sadly, on the night of his birth, the Christ-child found no room to shelter from the elements. Yet, at the end of his ministry, he promised to make room in his heavenly home for his faithful followers. Even now, Jesus wants to spend eternity with us. That's why he said, "In my father's house are many rooms...” This Christmas, make room in your heart for the Christ of Christmas. Such a welcoming gesture would be your gift to him on the day you celebrate his birth.

Like the residents of Bethlehem, ‘tis the season to invite Jesus in your life as a special guest— not just sometimes, but always. Like the magi and the shepherds, we too should adore him, honor Him, and worship him. We too should seek out his presence, spread glad tidings about his eternal gift of salvation. We too should talk with Him, develop a faith-based relationship with Him, while we grow in grace and virtue. Let us all earnestly endeavor to prepare room within our hearts and lives for Jesus—this Christmas and always.

Editor’s Note:

The writer currently teaches Communicative English at Hankyong National University. He has also authored a forthcoming book “A Few Choice Words.” He can be reached at cuforbes@gmail.com



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Carlton U. Forbes, who serves as staff writer & columnist for The Seoul Times, currently teaches Global English at Dongyang University in S. Korea's Yeongju City. Among the books he authored are "A Few Choice Words" and "ESL Teaching Aids." A resident of S. Korea for over a decade Prof. Forbes can be reached at cuforbes@gmail.com

 

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