When the heavily pregnant Mary arrived in Bethlehem, together with her husband, Joseph, there was no place for them to say. After making that arduous 130 kilometre journey from Nazareth through the dangerous hills of Samaria and the parched wilderness of Judea the “full house” signs were up all over town. There was no room for them in the inn.

We all know the story. Mary gives birth to Jesus in a stable out the back. It was, to be honest, an inappropriate, dirty place – a place fit only for animals. But this scene has been romanticised, idealised and even glamorised as mother adores her new born child with a placid, reverent Joseph looking on. Charming animals encircle the family as curious shepherds gather. Mysterious wise men arrive from the east to pay homage as a glowing star hovers overhead beaming a sublime light over the whole scene.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to spoil or denigrate this lovely story. But let’s be honest. Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus were effectively treated like second-class citizens. There was no private birthing suite provided here. Neither was there even the most basic form of hospitality. Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus were simply put out the back with the livestock and the haystacks. Here they had to fend for themselves.

This raises real questions for us all. Are the “full house” signs still up today? If Jesus was to come among us, would we say there’s no room in the inn? Would we suggest Jesus pitch his tent in the backyard, or better still, try the homeless shelter down the road?

As we celebrate Christmas ask yourselves these questions. Is there room for Jesus in my life? Does Jesus rate a mention amidst all the shopping, the celebrations and the holidaying that goes on now? Is there a place of honour for the Christ child at your Christmas table?

Is there room in your hearts and in your budget for those who are doing it tough this Christmas – the lonely, the homeless, the hungry, the persecuted and the displaced?

Don’t put the “full house” sign up this year. Make room in your busy lives for Jesus and for all those Jesus loves.

Whatever you do, don’t put Jesus second. Don’t put Jesus out the back. Don’t throw Jesus the crumbs.

Rather, give him first place in your lives this Christmas,

Rev John Barr