On Faith: Are you part of God's family?
I took many driving vacations with my parents — just the three of us. My siblings are 12 and 14 years older than me, so it was always just Mom, Dad and me.
I did really enjoy traveling and seeing new places in our country, and I still do. Whenever we traveled, we always had reservations for where we were going to stay because my dad was an engineer, so he was always prepared, and then some.
I remember one trip in particular when he was not prepared as usual. We went to Nashville and had a great time at the Grand Ole Opry, Opryland, etc., but on the way home, we had no place to stay. We ended up driving through the night, and we arrived at home with a greater-than-ever-before determination in my father's mind to never take a vacation without travel plans made.
Over 2,000 years ago, a young family traveled a number of days with no real travel plans, and they ended up staying in a small barn. What was worse, though, was that the young mom-to-be was pregnant as well.
Mary and Joseph had no idea what awaited them in Joseph's family's hometown. But all that awaited them was a cattle stall and feeding trough (manger). The humblest of beginnings for God incarnate (that is, God in human flesh). No room.
And many today feel there is no room for them, either. Loneliness is an epidemic, even in the age of social media. In fact, studies have shown that people who use Twitter, Facebook and the like actually feel lonelier afterward. Fame, money and possessions don't help either.
Clarence Darrow, the well-known lawyer from the Scopes Monkey Trial said: "I'll tell you what life is: It is an unpleasant, lonely interruption of nothingness."
Atheist Madelyn Murray O'Hair wrote in one of her last journal entries: "Somebody, somewhere, love me!" Desperation and sadness, feelings of being unwanted are a very common problem in people's lives.
So why was it that there was no room in the inn in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago? Was it just because there were too many people there at the time? Was it just coincidence, or is there a bigger reason? I believe it was part of God's deliberate plan.
Why? God has a special love for the unwanted, the downtrodden, the poor. So much so, in fact, that he became one of them.
Jesus, for whom there was no room at his birth, came to make room for us. That is the whole story of Jesus' life: He reached out to those rejected by society, those deemed "losers."
To come to Jesus, each of us has to admit that we need him. We must realize that are unable to make God accept us because we fall short of his perfection. We are all outcasts from God's presence because of our sin.
And yet, God, through Jesus' perfect life, sacrificial death and resurrection has called us back to himself, and back into God's family for eternity. Thank God that what we were unable to do for ourselves, God did for us.
So in this Christmas season, check your life: Are you part of God's family? Have you found forgiveness through Christ's blood, shed for you?
If not, come to him today! That's why he came to Earth in the first place. As the angelic beings in Revelation 5:9 say of Jesus: "You were slain, and with your blood you purchased men (and women) for God from every tribe and language and people and nation."
Praise God that he loves us, even those for whom there seems to be no room.
"On Faith" is a weekly column in the News-Chronicle written by area religious leaders. Scott Nelson has been the pastor at First Baptist since 1993.