When Jesus made his debut in Bethlehem, as opposed to Jerusalem, it was not just about ticking the prophetic box or demonstrating humility (Bethlehem was to the other cities of Israel, what the manger was to the other cribs at the time,) or even because the Roman emperor had decreed it. There was a very practical reason for Jesus to be born in such a place.
It might have been more fitting for Jesus, being a king, to have been born in a palace. But the palace, like every room in Bethlehem, was occupied. And those who occupy palaces are possessively protective of them.
Perhaps you’ve heard a missionary return from a developing country in chastened awe, reporting that people living on $1 a day were cheerfully generous with what little they had, insisting that the well-nourished Western guest eat the biggest and best portions.
In many places throughout history you’d be better off depending on the camaraderie of the poorest people in that place than the generosity of the wealthiest ones. It’s easier to catch a ride in a crowded minivan than it is to catch a ride in a spacious limousine.
Jesus came to Bethlehem and not the palace because Bethlehem was the sort of place where you could expect people to scoot over and make a little room. Not so the palace.
If you’re ever surprised to find Jesus among people whose company you yourself would not keep, or surprised at his conspicuous absence among the people you admire, bear this in mind. People who scoot, who make room, who set an extra place (even when they can only do it metaphorically because they lack a table and place settings) are the sort of people to whom Jesus comes. He is an opportunistic Savior.
Let us be hospitable people, and let us, like our Savior, aspire less to the palaces where we’re not wanted than to the places where we might have a place.
Prayer: Lord, if I have not been hospitable please forgive me. If I am reluctant to scoot down and make room, help me remember that it might be, in some sense, you I am making room for. And help me to be someone who is content with whatever places you make for me. There’s a part of me that’s always whispering that I belong in the “palace.” wherever that is. Help me to make that part of me shut up and stay quiet.
Song: I love Wilder Adkins! And this version of “Royal David’s City” shows all the reasons why I appreciate him so much. It is a fresh arrangement of the traditional carol, but it is so sweet and earnest that it does not feel like a calculated attempt at novelty at all. And what a carol it is! (I also love the artwork!)
Furnace Brook Wesleyan Church Blog