It was the festive ambience of a family at Christmas. Sisters-in-law, brothers-in law, parents-in-law, nephew, nieces. Nearly twenty in all.
On this Christmas-past, I am a sponge. I soak in all that I see and hear. My daughter is just a few months old and we all agreed to meet in Colorado for Christmas. One family has an air mattress and sleeping bags in the basement. A hide-a-bed couch serves to accommodate another family; spare bedrooms are filled to capacity.
One sister, in full joy, proclaims that she has the cutest baby on planet earth, while another exacts a proclamation of equal conviction with general disagreement on all sides while I quietly gaze at my own daughter, who is without question the cutest child by far. I turn and look near the fireplace, the rest of the guys are working on a jig saw puzzle (well over a million pieces if memory serves). Our children perform grand and glorious firsts - moments worthy of a TV movie of the week and our wives are chanting their praises as the men set bleary eyed, not willing that any puzzle piece should perish for lack of immediate placement.
In time, we eat turkey and are served a full compliment of the season's finest provisions; cranberries, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, the very-veggie contents of a relish tray, candy, cookies and pies and other non-descript specialties that include a combination of marshmallows and some sort of green stuff.
We all leave the table having eaten far too much while exercising far too little restraint. The tryptophan suddenly immerses the male populace of this small village into a comical bob-n-weave as one by one; we succumb to "slumber so deep" while our children bounce on our belly's, "like bowls full of jelly".
The presents were opened and everyone ooh'ed and aah'ed and then quickly contracted an advanced case of amnesia with neither the gift nor the giver being recalled.
A clash of cultures takes place between those who have children and those that do not. Invariably, a childless in-law (generally male) cheers like they're at a football game, 50 yard line, 5th row, isle seat. Why? They are the first person to land on Boardwalk. Three mom's scurry away to calm previously sleeping children - the game is forgotten.
And as comfortable as this family Inn has been, it is not home. I try to sleep but every noise is distinct and pronounced in its unfamiliarity. I notice the flushing of the communal restroom facility and the creaking of the floor and the faint whisper of others seeking elusive slumber (or more turkey in hopes for a tryptophan encore).
Suddenly it hits me; Jesus came to a packed house and wasn't allowed in. The joyful celebrating on that first Christmas refused to acknowledge a newborn babe. I imagine women joking and sharing stories of the agony and ecstasy of being moms. I imagine games that the men insisted on winning. Children alternately delighting and exasperating their parents with everyone looking forward to going home.
I seek out a quiet spot and bring my Bible...
"And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." Luke 2:1-7
Did I leave Him outside? Did I forget to bring Him with me? Was His presence what I had been missing in all the family fun?
I looked over and two others had also found their Bibles and it suddenly seemed the house had miraculously expanded - the Guest of honor had arrived and found He was welcome.