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Author:Rev. George van Popta
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Congregation:Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church
 Ottawa, Ontario
Preached At:Ancaster Canadian Reformed Church
 Ancaster, Ontario
Title:A Place
Text:Luke 2:7b (View)
Occasion:Christmas Day

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Singing: Hy. 16:1,2,3; Hy. 16:4; Hy. 17; Hy. 53; Hy. 11

Reading: Luke 2:1-16; John 14:1-3; Heb. 11:8-16

Text: Luke 2:7b
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ:

Everyone wants to be home for Christmas. Not everyone can be home for Christmas. We need to open up our homes for those who cannot get home for Christmas. Because everyone wants to be home for Christmas.

You remember the song:

I'll be home for Christmas
You can plan on me
Please have snow
And mistletoe
And presents 'neath the tree
Christmas eve will find me
Where the love light gleams
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams

If you live far from home, some years you will travel far to be home for Christmas. You'll even suffer the indignities that travelling by air or bus presents this time of year to be home at Christmas. You'll gladly put up with sleeping under the ping-pong table curled up in a sleeping bag as long as you can be home for Christmas. Incredibly, you'll be calling shot-gun for the fold-out sofa. You know, the one with the bar running right through the middle of the two inch foam "mattress." The one Garrison Keillor in Leaving Home calls "the hide-a-crow-bar" bed.

We long to belong. We all want a place. Some place where we fit. "You want someplace where everyone knows your name." Home is where they understand you. As Robert Frost put it, "Home is the place where, when you go there, they have to take you in."

We often read and hear about homelessness. Homeless people. People living on the streets. It is to break your heart.

Homelessness is not only a painful reality in our city. It is also a metaphor for how many people feel. Also the people in the Bible.

The Bible was largely written for people who were homeless or about to be homeless. For people who were about to go into exile, who were in exile, or had just returned from exile. The prophets and the apostles wrote often about home, homelessness, exile, and homecoming.

Think of the homesickness expressed in Psalm 137:

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?


We read some verses out of Heb. 11. About Abraham living as a stranger in a foreign land. The OT saints lived as strangers on the earth. They were looking for a place of their own, a place to call home. Ultimately, the home they were longing for was a heavenly home.

Homelessness, not having a place, focussed on the Lord Jesus Christ on the day of his birth. It followed Christ throughout his earthly life. Until he finished his work and returned to his heavenly home. There he is preparing a place, a home, for us. A place where we belong. A place where we will never be homesick again.

I preach to you:


1. There was no place for Him; 2. He prepares a place for us.

1. The Lord Jesus said once: "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." While He was on earth he really had no place to call home. He wandered throughout Galilee and Judea. He had some friends who gave him a place to stay. There was Martha, Mary and Lazarus in Bethany. But a place of his own he did not have. He was homeless.

It began the day of his birth.

The Virgin Mary was pregnant with him, the Son of God conceived in her womb by the Holy Spirit. Her betrothed, Joseph (the carpenter of Nazareth), had travelled with her to Bethlehem, the city of David. The Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus, had decreed that the whole Roman empire was to be enumerated for taxation and military purposes. The ANE, N. Africa, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, Europe all the way to Britannia-the whole empire was to be included in this census. Everyone had to register in his hometown. Joseph, of the line of King David, had to go to the city of David-Bethlehem-to be registered.

While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to give birth-for the Lord to be born. After Mary had given birth to the Lord Jesus, she placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Quite a mythology has grown around the statement that there was no room for them in the inn. Many hymns and sermons have been written about that focussing on the supposed inhospitable people of Bethlehem. Especially the innkeeper has been portrayed as cruel and heartless. Christmas pageants and nativity plays have Joseph and Mary approaching the Bethlehem Inn. Joseph is heard to say: "Please sir, may we have a room. My wife is about to give birth to a child." The innkeeper then, with arms folded across his chest, says: "No, I have no room for you." Sometimes there is a junior innkeeper who kindly brings them to a stable out back where Mary gives birth to the Christ-child. All kinds of hard words of condemnation are then heaped upon the cruel people of Bethlehem, and especially upon the innkeeper. Joseph and Mary relegated to an animal stable! Who would not provide a room for a woman about to give birth!

But more recent interpretation has looked at the matter of there not being any room in the inn a little differently. The word "room" can also be translated as "place." "Appropriate place." There was no appropriate place at the inn for a women to give birth to a child.

We need to understand what the inns were like in Palestine 2000 years ago. They were nothing like a Holiday Inn or a Howard Johnson of today. An inn was a large public room where travellers ate, slept, washed and visited. It was often a large room part of the owner's house. The word translated as "inn" here (in 2:7) is translated elsewhere in Luke as "guest room." In Luke 22:11 the Lord Jesus uses the "guest room"-a large upper room-of a house in Jerusalem to celebrate his last Passover with his disciples (the night he was betrayed). Luke used the same word in both places. In one place it is translated as "inn"; in another as "guest room."

In 2:7 we are to think of a large room. There were no separate rooms like inns (hotels) today. Rather, one big open room. There was no privacy. No appropriate place for a woman to give birth to a child!

What did Joseph do? When Mary went into labour, he took her to a private place. The oldest tradition says that he took her to a cave on the outskirts of Bethlehem where shepherds would keep their sheep if they came to town. The shepherds had carved out mangers inside the caves to feed the sheep. Here, it is said, Mary laid Jesus.

That would also explain why the shepherds knew exactly where to go. The angel said they would find the baby lying in a manger. The angel did not say which manger or where it was. And sure enough, they went to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger, just as the angel had said. They knew where to go. To that shelter, that cave, just outside Bethlehem where they so often kept their sheep when they went to town.

Although we have no business condemning the Bethlehemites nor the innkeeper, that there was no appropriate place for Christ to be born that night 2000 years ago did put a stamp upon his life. It characterized his earthly life.

Soon after he was born, King Herod tried to have him killed. Joseph had to spirit them off to Egypt to save his life. When King Herod was dead, they returned but not to Bethlehem. Because Herod's son was ruling over the area, they went far up north to Galilee.

This lack of place marked Christ's life. There was no appropriate place for him here. Understandable. He was the eternal Son of God. At the same time a perfect and sinless human being. How could there be a place for him? For him in the midst of the brokeness and sin of life?

And yet that's what he came into. While he was here he reached out to the sinners and the hurting. To those who knew they had no place with God because of their sins. He reached out to us, to you. He died as the homeless one on the cross. He died for you-to give you a place. He had no place. He died to give you a good place. A place in the church. A place in God's home. A place in the kingdom of God. A place in heaven. An eternal home with him in heaven.

On the night before he died-when he was in the large guest room-, he told his disciples not to worry but to trust in him. He said he was going to the heavenly house of his Father-the heavenly house that has many rooms. He said that he was going there to prepare a place for them. That after he had prepared a place for them he was going to return to take them to that place so that they could be together forever.

That's where Christ is today. That's what he is doing today-preparing a place for us. And not just any place. Not a noisy, crowded room. Rather, a house with many rooms. Lots of room. Lots of rooms. He is making it ready for us.

At the same time, he is preparing us for that place. By nature we are not appropriate for that place-for heaven. By nature, we do not belong there. But by his blood and Spirit he makes it possible for us to be there. Through his blood our sins are forgiven. By his Spirit we are renewed. Through his work of preparation, he makes us and heaven a good match. Though him heaven becomes the right place for us.

And so, beloved, we have a place. We have a home. A place we can call home. Together with all the saints of the OT and the NT, we long for that heavenly home. The earthly extension of that heavenly home is the church. In the church we receive a foretaste of that heavenly home. On this Christmas Day we look forward to our heavenly home.

Everyone wants to be home for Christmas. Not everyone can be home for Christmas. We need to open up our homes for those who cannot get home for Christmas. Because everyone wants to be home for Christmas.

We sing "I'll be home for Christmas." The Lord Jesus says: "I'll be your home this Christmas."

The Lord Jesus is our home. He is preparing a heavenly home for us. On this Christmas Day, as we reflect upon what Christ has done for us, we say: We long to be home-there where Christ is making a place ready for us. AMEN

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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(c) Copyright 2003, Rev. George van Popta

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