faith and family
Make Room for Jesus
by Marcus J. Carlson
I remember my youth group years with fondness as they were some of the most enjoyable and meaningful years of my life, lled with spiritual growth. If I am honest, however, the reason I rst went to youth group was because of a couple of cute girls. During my teen years, our youth leaders had a saying they liked to use when boys and girls would get physically real close to one another (other youth, not me of course): ‘Make room for Jesus.’ They would then proceed to make some room for Jesus between the o ending youth.
Now, each time I see a young couple in public quite close to one another I think to myself, “Leave some room for the Holy Spirit,” or “Make room for Jesus.” I suspect I will have to use these words more than once with my own children as well. I have not and will not forget that saying my youth workers used, even though at the time I found it to be quite annoying (not personally of course, just for my poor friends who had to hear these words).
As I think about the holiday season —Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, New Years — this saying is quite helpful and applicable as well, especially for families. So often in the hustle of life and the busyness that comes with the holidays and their extra activities, Jesus can get squeezed right out of our families, even during the holiday that exists to celebrate His birth. We not only forget the meaning of Christmas in the midst of shopping, baking, parties and more, we leave no reasonable amount of room to focus on Christ, to be with Jesus during the important season of re ection and celebration.
Advent, the season starting after Thanksgiving and leading up to Christmas, is intended to help us focus on Jesus — to anticipate, prepare for and welcome Jesus into our lives, homes, families, churches and world once again. As we know from the Christmas story, there was no room for Jesus in Bethlehem — at least not an easy, comfortable, welcoming space. At the rst Christmas, the people just could not nd room for Jesus. It is a problem we have not gotten over. The space they found for Jesus was likely not very big, regardless of where it actually sat and what kind of structure and space it actually was.
If you have had the privilege of spending some time in modern day Bethlehem, located in a Palestinian-controlled part of Israel (some call it Israel, others Palestine), you have probably had the opportunity to visit some unique sites related to the birth of Jesus. You can go down into some caves below the Church of the Nativity that could have been the birthplace, and likely would have been the place that Jerome did some Bible translation.
You may have even visited some of the shepherds caves that gave you an idea of what the birthplace of Jesus might have been like. I can tell you, they are all tight spaces and none of them would be ideal for a birth or a savior. Bethlehem itself is crowded and is by no means a large area at all. It is no surprise there was little room for Jesus.
Fast forward thousands of years later, and we still struggle to make room for Jesus, just like they struggled then and just like those “bad kids” from my youth group struggled with making room between the boy or girl they were interested in. Today, instead of inns, caves, town sizes or teenagers lled with hormones, our distractions are di erent. It is our schedules, activities, preparations, food and shopping, among other things, that distract us from Jesus. By the time Christmas comes, there is little room left for us to focus our hearts on the purpose for the holiday.
Yet, Jesus is always able to manage to make room, if we al- low. That star- lled evening, Jesus found a way to invade earth in the most unusual, unlikely and humble of ways. There was no easy, ideal or welcome place for Jesus, and yet He made a way.
Jesus continues to make a way into our lives and hearts in the midst of the lack of easy, ideal and welcome places in our world today as well. In Christmas, God broke back into the earth He created. Each holiday season we prepare for this event over and over again, hoping and praying that this year, we will make room for Jesus.
Jesus always nds a way to come into our hearts and lives each Christmas, just as He found a way on that rst Christ- mas. Though this is always the case, there is an easier, more meaningful way to make room for Jesus as individuals, church communities and as families. Christmas is an incred- ible time for us as parents to model our faith and use this key season in the discipleship of our children. If we want next Christmas to be di erent, it all begins with this Christmas.
Many of us can look to Christmas’ past and see where we have lost a little of our focus on Jesus. As we think about passing on our faith to our children and leaving a legacy with them, we must look to this holiday season as one of the most natural and meaningful times to make room for Jesus in our families.
What will the focus of this holiday season be for your family? What kind of Advent and Christmas season do you wish for your children and grandchildren? What do you want to be the focus of this special and meaningful time?
So often, we do not think about these questions or the real focus of Christmas; instead we allow our schedules, habits and circumstances dictate the focus of this holiday season in our lives and as families. We are like the distracted teenagers in the youth group who are so blinded by their desires, and we have failed to leave room for Jesus.
This holiday season, make room for Jesus.
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