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A Knock at Midnight – Christmas, Midnight Homily

December 24, 2015

blog.12.24In this reflection, perhaps we can consider but one line in the Gospel which both challenges our love, and is a sign of God’s humble and abiding love for us: For there was no room for them in the Inn.

I. The Cold There is a knock at midnight. Joseph, speaking on behalf of both Mary and Jesus (who is in her womb still), seeks entrance to the homes and lodgings of those in Bethlehem. And even though the Jewish people placed a great deal of emphasis on the duty of hospitality to strangers, the answer repeatedly given is that there is “No room here.” Mary’s obviously advanced pregnancy seems to make little difference.

This was indeed a cold night, not so much in terms of the air temperature, but in terms of the hearts of the people. Even at the local inn (and surely someone could make room for a pregnant woman!), there was “No room.”

Yes, it was a cold night! The only warmth would be found among the animals of that town. An old Latin antiphon for Christmas says, O magnum mysterium et admirabile sacramentum, un animalia viderent Dominum natum iacentem in praesepio. (O great mystery and stunning sacrament, that animals would see the newborn Lord lying in a feedbox. Here, warmth will be found: among the animals. It is sometimes said that man can be brutish. But the reality is that we can sink even lower than the beasts, doing things to ourselves and one other that even animals do not.

Scripture says,

The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger, but Israel does not know me, my people do not understand….They have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him (Isaiah 1:3-4).

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him (John 1:10-11).

There was a knock at midnight; the animals received Him and gave warmth. His own people, knowing Him not, received Him not. And into this midnight darkness and cold, the light and warmth of God’s love will shine forth. The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone (Is 9:1).

II. The Condescension – Surely God must stoop low to come down from lightsome Heaven to our war-torn, dark, cold world. And He stoops to the lowest place, to be born not in a palace or even a comfortable home, but a manger. For God will defeat Satan’s pride with humility. And all who will find Him this fateful night must also stoop.

This stooping by God is illustrated even in the very topography of this night. The towns of the Holy Land were built on the tops of the tall hills (something almost never done here in America). This was done so as to leave the fertile valleys open for agriculture. Bethlehem was perched on the higher land and the shepherd’s fields lay below. The streets of Bethlehem were steep and built on tiers or levels. Thus, the back lot of many homes and buildings dropped steeply down and beneath the buildings. And then beneath the buildings they hollowed out caves where animals and tools were kept.

It was there, down underneath, where Joseph and Mary sought hasty shelter. For it was a cold and dark midnight and Mary’s time had come. God stooped with them to be born, among the animals and agricultural implements, in the damp cave underneath some house or inn.

Those who will find our God, they too must stoop low. Even to this day, when one visits Bethlehem to see the place of Jesus’ birth, one must first enter the Church through what is called the “Door of Humility.” For security reasons, this door was built to be only about four feet high. So one must stoop greatly to enter the church. Yes, we must stoop to find our God. The actual site of the birth is at the other end of the basilica, under the altar area. Here again, more stooping is required. One must descend a steep staircase and go through another low, narrow door and into the cave. To touch the very spot, one must kneel and reach forward, into a yet-narrower part of the cave. Here Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, says the inscription. And the only way to get there is to stoop.

Yes, our God stoops. He stoops to the lowest place. And to find Him and be with Him we, too, must be willing to stoop. God hates pride; He just can’t stand it. He sees what it does to us. He comes to break its back, not by overpowering it, or with clubs and swords, but with humility. Darkness does not defeat darkness; only light can do that. Hate does not defeat hate; only love can do that. Pride does not defeat pride; only humility can do that. And so God stoops.

Tonight God calls us with this same humility. He could have ridden down from Heaven on a lightning bolt and stunned us into fearful submission. Instead, He goes to the lowest place. He comes quietly, peacefully, without threat—as an infant. But even in this lowly way, He is still calling.

And so there is a knock at midnight. Scripture says, Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me (Rev 3:20). There is an old song with the following lyrics: “Somebody’s knocking at your door! Oh, Sinner, why don’t you answer?”

And this leads us to the final point.

III. The Crucial thing – When human history is complete and the last books are written, one of the saddest lines in all of that history will be simply the line, For there was no room for them in the Inn. No room … no room. How strange and sad for this world that God simply doesn’t fit! He doesn’t fit with our agendas, into our schedules, or among our priorities. There’s no room. He just doesn’t fit.

Scripture says,

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him (Jn 1:11).

But that same passage goes on to add,

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the power to become children of God (John 1:12).

The most crucial decision in and factor of your life is whether or not there is room in your heart. Will you answer the knock at midnight? Some of you who are in this church tonight come only at Christmas. But throughout the rest of the year there is just no room for Jesus. There’s no time for Mass. There’s no time to fulfill the last thing He asked: Do this in memory of me. I beg you to reconsider and make room in your heart for Christ on His terms: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you have no life in you (Jn 6:53).

Yes, what about us? Is there room for Jesus in the “inn” of our hearts? If there is, then Jesus comes bearing many gifts. Tonight is a night of gifts. There is a knock at this very midnight. It sounds like Jesus! Oh, Sinner, why don’t you answer? Somebody’s knocking at your door.

Make room for Jesus. Every year He comes knocking. He stoops low and invites us to find Him in the lowly places of this world, in the lowly places of our own lives. What are the things in your life that may be crowding Him out? What obstacles and preoccupations leave little or no room for Jesus? What keeps you from recognizing Him and opening the door wide when He comes?

If you’ve already opened the door to Him for many years now, praise God! Then ask the Lord to help you open it wider. For it remains true for many of us that even though we’ve invited Jesus in, His accommodations are poor: perhaps the couch or floor of our life.

Make room for Jesus. Make more and more room for Him, in the “inn” of your soul. I promise you that what Scripture says is true: Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the power to become children of God (John 1:12).

If you will receive the gift of Him tonight and make greater room for Him in your heart, I promise you total victory and transformation in Christ Jesus. There will come to you the increasing gift of transformation into the very likeness of God. For tonight is a night of gifts and Jesus stoops low to give us a priceless gift: the power to become children of God.

It’s midnight. There’s a knock at the door. Oh, sinner, why don’t you answer?

Regarding this video … I know, I know. Yet still there is much to ponder.

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Comments (2)

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  1. Giacomo says:

    Merry Christmas!

  2. Pastor Glenn Koons says:

    Thank you for the homily. We watched a Christmas film, actually Christian, A Smokey Mt. Christmas, then Dr. Charles Stanley’s Christmas SALVATION message, much needed in today’s society …..after going to our own Church’s Christmas Eve. Service. Blessings of Jesus on all of you.