Pastoral Ponderings—No Room
My mom was the classic preacher’s wife when I was a kid, running children’s ministries from Sunday Schools to the Christmas Pageant. She must have thought I was a rising star, because I remember her having me play (whether I wanted to or not) the Little Drummer Boy, The Littlest Angel, or some shepherd or wise guy more times than I had years as a kid! (Though I don’t remember ever playing an angel—was she trying to say something keeping me out of the angelic role?)
She used a song called “No Room” in those pageants so much over the years, that I thought it was like “What Child is This”—one of the unforgettable classics, until in my ministries from church to church I would always suggest it, but no one knows it! With a few extra repeats, it goes “No room, only a manger of hay, no room, he is a stranger today; no room, here in this world turned away, no room… No room, here in the hearts of mankind, no room, no cheery welcome could find, no room surely the world is blind, no room, no room.”
Maybe no one knows the song because these days we make sure we have room for Jesus in countless nativity scenes around and on trees, churches and homes. I know of a couple from one church who has hundreds– a museum’s worth of nativity scenes from all over the world–with room for Baby Jesus in every one! But how real is that room, or is it no more than another sparkly ornament?
In recent years, barely the hint of a suggestion of a Christmas Pageant—even before COVID—brings cries of “NO ROOM!”—no room in family schedules, no room in church schedules, and no room is schools to even have Christmas anymore! I’ve heard of some creative types trying to ZOOM pageants with parts literally divided up from home to home, but even though you can’t get kids (of ALL ages…) off their digital doo-dads, “we’re so ‘zoomed out,’ we’ve no room to do yet another zoom…” we often hear.
There’s plenty room for Santa in our Christmases, and toys on both real and virtual shelves. Toys for Tots has plenty room using a blimp hanger for their collections. But when shoppers desperate to buy the joy of Christmas seem more like Grinches than humble shepherds eager for Jesus, the words of that old song come again to mind: “no room, here in the hearts of mankind… no room, surely the world is blind, no room, no room.”
Sure, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” but there’s no room for Jesus in his sleigh, nor is there room for Jesus in “the real meaning of Christmas” anymore. Yet families of all shapes and sizes can still find ways to make a “cheery welcome” for Jesus in their celebrations and shine the light of his star in their neighborhoods! We were checking out some of the household dancing light displays set to music when we found one house with an Electronic Dance Music version of “Amazing Grace” driving their lights! (a cool witness, even though it’s not much of a Christmas Song…) It made me wonder what other Jesus songs strangers would drive miles to hear if you set it to dancing lights!
A lot of our neighbors could really use and appreciate some extra Christmas cheer these days. I bet there’s countless ways to make room for Jesus among the cookies, cards, snow shoveling, and other ways families can share Christmas in safer, socially distant ways with neighbors. And often your kids or grandkids have the best of ideas for how to do so!
I hope that song doesn’t describe your Christmas, or how you share Christmas with others. After all, when we take “Christ” out of “CHRISTmas,” it sounds an awful lot like no more than a “mess”!
Make room—Rev. Jim