The last two months of 2018, in our house felt a little like "there was no room in the Inn". “Air BnB Tolman”, were the words that were floating around, with a laugh. The week leading up to Christmas it was a "full house", with 12 people sleeping over Christmas night and 16 for Xmas dinner. Which doesn’t sound like a lot, but that was all last minute. Maybe we should have been called "last minute.com" rather than "Air BnB Tolman".
There is a difference between being invited and people landing unexpectedly. Of course, we had ample sufficiency, and plenty left over. It was not about the food, just the fullness of the house, which usually I love, but this time it was beyond my control and that is always a little challenging. When you have to start making a roster to use the kitchen just to get things made for Christmas day it gets a bit hectic. Then when you do get a chance to cook, opening the fridge to find the things you’d bought for Christmas dinner had been eaten or taken without you knowing, can bring the worst thoughts out of you and I must say even a few choice words.
With that many adults living in the house, the kitchen is always full of dirty dishes and I can’t seem to find things as people always put them in different places to me. On the positive side there are more people to clean, cook and there is someone always offering to make me a cup of tea. Netflix is constantly going, but not always what I want to watch. Quiet time is hard to find, but I have my office to escape to when I get desperate. Oh, that’s right, there was someone staying in there as well over Christmas. Doh.
There was just no more room in the INN.
As I reflect on Christmas just gone, I feel I start the beginning of the New Year apologising and having to eat my own words. On Christmas Eve, I led our community in the reminder that in all the busyness of Christmas day we must remember that Christ is central. Yet the very next day I found myself feeling not only that I was simply surviving Christmas, but more than that, the worldly celebrations of eating, partying, drinking, presents and people crowded out “Jesus” so that He hardly came into my thoughts.
How did you do it Jesus? You came into the world, in a crowded, partying town, where the Inn was full. The world around barely stopped to notice that you were there, but still you came. You didn’t demand, you didn’t make a fuss, you simply came to serve.
Lord, I want to be that kind of light in this world, in my home, in my community. But I find, when the going gets tough I simply want to hide in my room and hope it all goes away. I thank you that your birth was an example of how you planned to live and how you desire us to live. We are called to live in community, to open our lives and houses to those who need it and sometimes it will be uncomfortable and feel crowded. You gave us a picture of the way the Church is meant to look ... The saviour of the world, the one to bring unconditional love, surrounded by smelly animals, lowly shepherds, two humble parents not sure what is really happening in a town that hardly knows or cares that you exist.
Not that the people in my house are smelly animals ... well we won’t go there ... ha ... just kidding, but like any community, being uncomfortable, things not going to plan, and not always being able to find what you are looking for, is all a part of the territory. Help me to face the challenges with love and grace and not run and hide. Sometimes my hiding is even behind the serving or the smile and that is not good enough either. But also, thank you for the reminder that even in a lowly manger, in the shed behind the Inn, with the world passing you by, you still shone, and that’s all you ask me to do as well.
Bring on 2019. Whatever challenges it brings, help me to make sure Jesus is always at the centre, no matter what is going on around me.
PS: This has been published with the permission of those living in my house at the time.