Monday Matters (December 25, 2017)


A few years back, as I was working on the Rector’s Christmas Sermon, it suddenly began to rhyme. This morning, I share that seasonal doggerel, based on Luke’s gospel, with apologies to real poets everywhere. The poem/sermon is based on Luke 2:1-14 included below.

Room for Joy

If I could meet the innkeeper,
The thing I’d want to know
Is why he pointed to the barn
Two thousand years ago.

We don’t know much about him.
St. Luke’s account is thin
It’s up to us to speculate.
Could he have let them in?

Perhaps he acted out of spite:
“There’s no space here,” he said,
as if he were some ancient Scrooge.
What’s going through his head?

It could be he’d just had enough.
The day had left him harried.
This couple was the final straw.
And were they even married?

Perhaps it seemed too troublesome
To welcome as a guest
This pregnant child. Her presence
Might deny him beauty rest.

Or was he snidely mocking them?
“A room? Tonight? From me?
What’s the matter?
Can’t you read that sign: NO VACANCY?”

“No wait. There is one open room.
I’ll book you right this minute.
You’ll like it. Lots of nice fresh air.
May I place you in it?”

“No chocolate on the pillows though.
No pillows there at all.
And by the way, you’ll share your suite.
You’re bunking in the stall.”

It may be that he saw a chance
In Joseph’s anxious gaze
To make a couple extra bucks
By renting out that place.

“I wonder if they’ll go for it”
He ponders at the door
“They must be pretty desperate.
Perhaps I should charge more?”

But maybe there’s another way
to think about this guy.
Perhaps he really hoped to help
There’s one more thing to try.

It may be true he had no room.
But could he just say no?
These homeless folks in need of help.
He could not let them go.

“This may sound stupid, Joseph.
I know it might not please.
But I’ve got one small space that’s free.
Do you have allergies?”

The innkeep’s wife would chide him.
“I know that life is hard.
I’m glad to help the homeless,
But not in my backyard.”

We don’t know why he sent them there
What moved him, we’re not sure.
His choice reflects the ways we choose
with motives rarely pure.

It could have been expedience,
Indifference or pity.
But maybe it was grace that moved him
in that crowded city.

For when he pointed to the barn
That night, it’s clear to see.
He made a tiny place for joy
And that made history.

What room do you and I have?
What space for joy, I mean.
It need not be so fancy
It need not be so clean.

We each have got a God-shaped space
(Augustine’s line, not mine)
We’re restless till it’s filled by joy.
That’s how we’ve been designed.

We need not offer up that place
With motives that are best.
We only need to offer it.
Joy sees to the rest.

We’re not unlike that innkeeper
With lives preoccupied.
We may think there’s no room for joy.
Here are some reasons why:

We may think we’re too busy.
Joy will have to wait
It may seem inconvenient.
Please, joy, I’m running late.

I really should make room for joy.
Some time to just be merry
Perhaps a week from Tuesday.
I’ll look in my blackberry.

This busy season crowds out joy
I bet some still are hoping
To make a few more purchases
Is the mall still open?

And what if I receive a gift
And I have none in kind?
What if they spent a whole lot more?
Can joy survive that bind?

Family tensions crowd out joy:
Will siblings start in fighting?
Will parents push my buttons
old arguments igniting?

The fact is, sometimes space concerns
are deepest felt inside.
There’s no room left within closed hearts.
A fact we try to hide.

For many, night is just too dark.
The pain keeps joy at bay.
That’s why this story matters most.
It says: Joy finds a way.

Let every heart prepare a room.
Let heav’n and nature sing.
Joy to the world. Our leap of faith.
The message angels bring.

It’s message of the gospels,
Echoing Isaiah.
Good news to hapless shepherds:
Joy will find a way.

What is this thing called joy, you ask
I’d really like to try some
Can I put it on my credit card?
Is that the way to buy some?

Some suspect that joy is found in
toys that we obtain
Children of all ages look
That way to ease the pain

Is joy found in a fancy car?
Or in the Dow’s expansion?
Is joy found in a zip code
Or in a new macmansion?

Joy can trump our circumstance
For folks who have it all
Can seem, of all, most miserable
How paradoxical!

But joy is not the stuff we own.
It’s not a pedigree.
It’s not a corner office.
It’s not theology.

Joy arrives in person
In this dark world of sin.
Joy shows up in that small boy
Can we let him in?

This holy child of Bethlehem
(the joy for which we pray)
casts out our sin and enters in
Is born in us today.

And when joy grows within our lives
with new life from above,
It brings the news in person,
who tells us: God is love.

It’s not too late to meet him.
He’s met in neighbors now.
And when we offer thanks to God
Joy breaks through somehow.

Joy comes in bleak midwinter.
Joy comes in silent night.
Joy comes in land of darkness deep.
Joy comes with dazzling light.

The innkeeper turns out his lamp.
He’s finished washing dishes
It’s been a busy weekend.
For quitting time he wishes.

He wonders what is going on
With that young couple there.
Maybe he should take a look.
He’s way too tired to care.

But wait, he’s hearing footsteps.
And many happy voices.
A flock of sheep in his backyard
A company rejoices.

As he goes to check it out.
The cry comes: “It’s a boy!”
His barn now a delivery room
A room made just for joy.

“With God all things are possible.”
To Mary, message sounds.
She’s smiling broadly, pondering
Could joy know any bounds?

It’s getting weirder, there’s no doubt.
The innkeeper is nervous.
The gath’ring in his stable’s
looking like a worship service.

The sign that says “NO VACANCY”
Still flashes in the night.
But it seems much, much dimmer now
There is a brighter light.

He simply cannot help himself.
He smiles to see that boy.
Surprised by what he learned that night.
“There’s always room for joy.”

We learn the same thing as we meet
and honor Christmas Day.
For with sweet little Jesus boy
Joy will find a way.

-Jay Sidebotham

 Luke 2:1-14

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see-I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’


Jay SidebothamContact:
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
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