And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke 2:7 (NASB)
It is a familiar historical account, even to many who do not regularly attend church. Mary and Joseph were looking for lodging, as the time of Jesus’ birth was fast-approaching. To fulfill the messianic prophesy recorded in the book of Micah, it was necessary that Jesus be born in Bethlehem. But, there was no guest room for them in the inn.
This did not happen by chance. It was according to God’s perfect plan. In keeping with Isaiah’s prophecies, King Jesus would not be born in a luxurious palace, a Holiday Inn, or, as it were, a Motel 6. Jesus was born in a place of humiliation- a stable where animals were fed. “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” “There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him.”
The same things that were true of Jesus, were also true of Mary and Joseph, because of their identification with Him. There was no guest room for them in the inn. There were things Mary and Joseph suffered in life, simply because they were personally connected to Jesus. This was also true of the early Christians, who were baptized “in the name of Jesus,” to demonstrate their personal acceptance of Him as Messiah. Further, it is true of any of us who boldly identify with Jesus.
Are you one of them for whom there is little or no room in this world? Are you one of them who is not accepted by those who hoard power and status? To identify with Jesus means to identify with His suffering and rejection. Philippians 1:29 says, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.” Identifying with Jesus also involves identifying with others who have been marginalized and stigmatized by the world. This includes those subjected to racial oppression and various forms of discrimination. It also includes those facing housing insecurity, the refugee, or “the other.”
Sadly, many who profess Christian faith, do not truly identify with the real Jesus of the Scriptures. Rather, they have pledged allegiance to a fake, American-made Jesus; one socially constructed in their own image. For many, this false christ is a muscular, white, Nordic-looking man, who drives a monster truck, and is skilled at using an AR-15, and other tactical gear. This “christ” is given to rugged individualism, law-and-order conservatism, and Christian nationalism. In fact, this is the christ who many Trump-supporters believe sanctioned the brutal attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, on January 6, 2021.
This is not the real Jesus! This false, MAGA-hat-wearing christ promises his followers political power, and gives them permission to use violence to obtain the same. “Win at all cost,” is one mantra of his cult members. “Don’t look like a loser,” is another. This christ is an idol, and those who bow down to him are engaged in idolatry.
Conversely, the real Jesus invites his followers to divest themselves of power, while embracing truth, humble service, and the opportunity to empower others. True Christ-followers don’t see people who are different, for whatever reason, as “the enemy” in some “culture wars.” On the contrary, they see the world as their mission field, and all people as those who bear the image of God. They see all people, no matter what their condition, as neighbors to whom they are called to show love and respect.
Are you one of them? Are you among those who have chosen to identify with the real Jesus? Have you also chosen to identify with those whom Jesus called “the least of these”? If so, God has made room in His Kingdom for you! God is not impressed by what you profess, but He is ultimately impressed by Christ-like living.
This Advent season, I encourage you to prayerfully reflect on these things.
By Joel A. Bowman, Sr.