At the decree of the most powerful ruler of their time, Joseph and Mary went to the town of Joseph’s roots—Bethlehem, David’s city. Bethlehem means “house of bread,”—the place where there should be enough. Arduous as this journey would have been for this impoverished family, it was only compounded by the fact that Mary was pregnant. Unfortunately, there was no exemption made for those expecting a child to forego travel, and no one stopped young Mary from doing so in what we’d now call her third trimester. Had there been, she wouldn’t have had to deliver her child away from her home and her family. She wouldn’t have had to deliver our Savior and Lord ... alone.
This time in Bethlehem, the place of bread, there was no room. If you’ve endured birth yourself, you can imagine that the barn where they ended up was not a natural first choice. The time came to deliver her son — God incarnate — and no one had room for them. How many doors did Joseph have to knock on? Was the inn the only place that had no vacancy, or just the final one before they had to make their decision?
For most of us in modern houses of bread (developed world nations), Jesus’ birth story is very hard to relate to. Yes, sometimes babies are born in the car. But this wasn’t just an in-transit birth. This was a family asking to be given some space—any space—to bring their child into the world, and they were not welcome. The house of bread, a place filled with resources, refused to make room for the vulnerable. Are we any different?
As we consider the vulnerable in our own day, we have a choice as to whether or not to repeat this tragic story of our Savior’s birth. Jesus’ birth brings to light the realities that so many continue to endure unjustly. The attention paid to his birth (with angels and shepherds and magi all being told by God: go look!) makes us look at the sign. Yes, God became man. And when he did, he was born into an unsterile environment, among animals, placed into a feeding trough with whatever clothes they could find.
People are still born this way. And it’s not just birth. People live life this way—dehumanized, subject to the orders of their day, trying their best to heed to the rules, but offered little help along the way. “No room”… in our own homes. In our hearts. In our budgeted time or resources. “Sorry,” we say. “Wish I could help,” inhospitable Bethlehem repeats.
This holiday season, we invite you to participate with us to make room for those in need. We’re focusing on the vulnerable, and giving them the basics: kids who need a safe place to learn, families who need to eat and stay healthy, youth who need empowered, young girls who need to understand their bodies, prisoners who need some basic supplies, refugees who need assistance after fleeing from war. We ask that you consider making room so that these precious people could enjoy the life that hasn’t always been within reach for them.
We know these individuals, we’ve made it our mission to educate, advocate for and empower them. We also know that most of that work requires a starting point that can be established by people who make room for the poor in their hearts.
All inhabitants of a house of bread: let’s tell a different story. Let’s make room.