Dear Sisters and Brothers,
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2 verse 7.)
From the moment of his birth Jesus experienced exclusion. When his parents arrived in Bethlehem they could not find any accommodation, so were forced to depend on the goodwill of others.
Jesus' birth opened a whole new understanding of what God is like. Although in all sorts of ways people said to him "There is no room for you." His response was to demonstrate that God makes room for all of us. Later in life and in response to God's call he chose to take up a way of life that put him and many of his followers on the edges of society. He had friends and people who gave him material support, but his focus was to get alongside others who were excluded from the main streams of society.
This Christmas, as part of the Methodist Church, we are being encouraged to try to demonstrate our open, inclusive and welcoming nature by saying to all people that "There is room" for you.
Jesus shows in his ministry how that can be done. Most of his work was done by going out into public places, where ordinary people gathered, to preach and to heal. He accepted invitations to go to parties where he met people in the places where they felt comfortable. It was in those places that he listened to them, challenged them and met them at their deepest point of need. He opened channels for God's all-embracing love to flow into people's lives.
Christmas is still a time when people come to special events like crib and carol services. They give us an opportunity to demonstrate that "There is room" by the hospitality that we offer. People will also come into churches because they provide warm spaces and to access foodbanks. In these encounters with people, we can try to offer the inclusive welcome that Jesus gave to people.
The real work of Christmas is done when we take the risk of following Jesus out of the places where we feel comfortable to the places where we can share in the vulnerability of others and need to depend on receiving their insights, wisdom and hospitality. It is in these encounters that God's grace can become real and lives transformed.
Beyond these walls of worship
in the stress and joys of life
Can we offer you our bodies
as a living sacrifice?
Will we keep you at the centre
far beyond the Sunday call?
Will we turn to you,
be transformed by you;
Still declare you God of all?
(StF 547) Ian Worsfold and Paul Wood
With every blessing,
PS. for more information and resource materials about "There is room" follow this link: There is Room (Advent and Christmas 2022) resources (methodist.org.uk)