Responding to the Knock

The stores have been selling Christmas goods since October. Outdoor Christmas lights have been strung and lit since November. Christmas music has been played and Christmas trees decorated since the start of December. Months of preparation and planning for a single day.

And finally, Christmas itself has arrived. The long-awaited holiday that shapes our spending, our celebrating, and even our spirit, has finally come.

But in a matter of moments, the brightly wrapped packages will be opened. And just as quickly, the festive meal will be consumed. And what will remain beyond the crumpled wrapping paper, dirty dishes, and credit card bills?

Certainly the special memories, treasured photographs, and cherished phone calls from loved ones remain. We recall the delighted smile on a child’s face when they experience the joy of the season. But is there more? Was all the preparation, planning, stress, shopping, decorating, and spending simply for a split-second moment that ended just as quickly as it started? Is that the story of Christmas you find yourself in the middle of this weekend?

In years past I often have found myself disappointed and let down when Christmas itself finally arrived. It was as if the real thing never quite lived up to the months-long anticipation and build-up and my over-eager imagination. Have you ever felt that way?

I’m reminded of the words of Jesus that promise, “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” I trust those words also apply to my tendency to be experience disappointment on Christmas Day and begin to consider how else Christmas might be experienced – beyond the wrapping paper and Christmas dinner. And then I realize I am not the only one to ever have somehow missed the specialness of the day. Over 2000 years ago an unnamed individual, forever memorialized as the Innkeeper, also somehow missed the point.

We really can’t blame him, can we? After all, a nondescript individual knocked on his door asking for lodging, and knowing each room at his inn was completely filled, and having probably already turned away numerous other people, he shook his head exclaiming, “There’s no room at the inn.” They say hindsight is 20-20, and had he known who he was turning away, he would probably have offered his own bed, opting instead to sleep on the couch or on the blow-up mattress in the living room. Or maybe he wouldn’t. After all, how many of us knowingly turn away the knock today, exclaiming, “There’s no room in the inn of my life”?

Particularly in this Christmas season, when there are so many extra duties to do and activities to accomplish, the knock often goes unanswered or is quickly turned away. But it is that very knock that opens the possibility for each of us to truly experience the joy of Christmas, far beyond the superficial commercialism and busyness that plagues the holiday. It is that knock that allows us to experience the joy of the season, far beyond the time when Christmas lights hang from the eaves, and the tree sits in the corner of the living room.

Rather than Christmas being the culmination of the season of build-up and anticipation, it can be just the beginning. Answering the knock and making room in your life doesn’t end on December 26th. Instead it answers the cry of your heart – the cry that longs for meaning and purpose. The cry that wants to hang onto the Christmas spirit year-round.

The knock that invites you to respond is an offer of radical love, unfathomable hope, and tremendous fulfillment. It isn’t a demand or burden. It is that glimmer you catch in a child’s eye as he gazes upon the holiday light display. It is the whisper of delight you hear among the laughter of family gathered around the table. It is the light-hearted spring in your step you experience hearing your favorite Christmas song. It is the excitement of seeing someone open a gift you lovingly selected. And it is so much more.

As you gather around the tree and table this Christmas weekend, may your heart be filled with joy, delight, excitement and love of the season. And just when you dread it is all-too-soon coming to an end, pause in quiet reflection and prayer, and respond to the knock. Is there room in your inn? Will you invite in the very Child we all intend to celebrate this season, but often overlook? Don’t just sing about letting every heart prepare Him room, truly do it. Make room in your inn, open your heart, and invite in the very reason we celebrate this Christmas season. And in so doing, the celebration will continue far beyond today!

Merry Christmas!