November 5, 2020
“While they were there, the time came for a baby to be born, and she gave birth to her first born, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” Luke 2:6-7
That first Christmas like so many I have celebrated over my life had no guest room available for the young couple named Joseph and Mary and their newborn son. It happened to them in Bethlehem, which in Hebrew means House of Bread. God so loved the world, He chose the city named House of Bread to gift us with the Bread of Life.
My father used to like to tease one of my friends named Arturo. He would call him Arturo pan duro. He would finish by saying, “El pan no esta duro … duro es no tener pan!” He would go on to tell us we had it made compared to the cotton-picking days of his youth. He only went to school until the third day because he had to help contribute to the family income.
“El pan no esta duro … duro es no tener pan!” I have often thought of those words and recently pondered them in a spiritual sense. The bread is not hard … hard is not to have bread. Growing up my father did not receive the full Bread of Life. At age 78, about two months before he went to Heaven, I was able to lead him to Christ. When I read him the story from John chapter 14, he looked amazed and exclaimed, “So that’s where that comes from!” I had just finished reading to him: “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6. All his life and most of mine (until age 47), we only knew or saw the breadcrumb phrase of ‘I am the Way.’ We did not get to hear the full story. Here’s something to think about: If you are not seated at the table of the Lord eating a full portion of the Bread of Life, you might find yourself on satan’s menu.
When my father accepted the free gift of salvation, I felt like a donkey that was able to carry my father to Jesus on that glorious day. Ironically, it was a teaching about a talking donkey that laid me at the feet of Jesus when I accepted Christ. The story can be found in Numbers, chapter 22. So now, I became a spiritual donkey that took my father across my Bible to the verse in Revelation 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” I gently knocked on my father’s chest and told him Jesus wanted to come in. He wholeheartedly welcomed him as he became a Child of the King. Hold the Hallelujahs for a second as the story is not over, it only gets better. You can read about the greatest blessing I have ever received in the final chapter of Barrio Walk: Stepping Into Wisdom.
On March 15, 2002 around 9:20 pm, my father who had been in a coma-like state all day, began stirring and struggling to breathe. In the room was my mother, my sister Anita, my brother Ernie, who has Down Syndrome, and myself. We gathered around his bedside and my sister gently said, “It’s okay daddy, the angels are all around you.” When she said this, she pulled on the angel carousel chimes above his bed. It sounded like a tiny choir of angels delicately singing. Then a miracle happened. I leaned in close to my father and said, “Dad, jump into Jesus arms!” My father, who had been flat on his back all day, sat up and reached out … he took three last gasps, fell back on the bed and he was gone. It was the most beautiful, surreal moment of my life. There was so much peace and tranquility in the room that is way beyond my understanding. It was the closest I have ever been to Jesus as my father reached out to him. I will not be fully at peace or stop telling others about what I witnessed that day until I see Jesus again.
How many Christmas gatherings have you celebrated that had no mention of the Reason for the Season? Were you too distracted by the holiday spirits to worship Emmanuel? That name Emmanuel means God is with us. Perhaps you were too busy buying gifts with money you don’t have to impress people you don’t even like. Hearing songs like grandma getting run over by the reindeer are humorous, but also a source of deception. The essence of deception at Christmas happens so slowly that when you realize it is happening, another year or years have passed. Reality comes back strongly when you open the credit card bill in January.
Too many years in my life included a No Vacancy sign lit up in the window of my heart. This caused my heart to remain dark without the Light of the World. God loves us so much He does not want anyone to perish, but to have everyone come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
This year 2020 (one like no other) is almost over and Christmas will soon be here. Take time to reflect on the young couple riding on a donkey on their way to Bethlehem. They were looking for a place for Jesus to lay. Show Jesus there is a spot for Him in the manger in your heart. When you receive Him, it is you that will receive the Rest that can only come from the Prince of Peace . Then your heart will leap for joy and sing a song that goes something like this:
Today in my manager, He has a crib for his bed.
The little Lord Jesus Has Laid down His Sweet Head
Be near me, Lord Jesus
I ask you to stay
Close by me forever
And love me, I pray.
Brighten up this Christmas with the Light of the World. Share the story with your loved ones, especially the children. Let the Morning Star illuminate a heart that is no longer in the dark. Turn off that sign that says, No Guest Room Available.
Rejoice! The Kingdom of God is near. Make it a Merry Christmas!