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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Countdown to Christmas/Advent (10/23/08)

TITLE: No Room
By Emily Gibson


Anticipation is everything.

So it is in our household at Christmas. During the days of Advent, our nativity crèche becomes the focal point in our preparation for Jesus’ arrival on earth. Our Joseph and Mary figures start their travels at the farthest point in our house, each day moving closer to the crèche.

As Joseph and Mary travel on, amidst their own anticipation and preparation for the Baby’s arrival, we prepare the nativity and ourselves. Each day an animal is added, or a bit of straw, a star hanging high above or the manger waiting empty. We read a verse of scripture prophecy, pondering God’s people and their long anticipation of the arrival of the Messiah.

During December, we contemplate what it must have been like to travel for long hours over hard roads to arrive in a dirty little town crammed with too many people, and no rooms left. Joseph and Mary must have felt a growing sense of panic that there would be no safe and clean place to rest and possibly deliver this Child.

During the last week of Advent observance, our Joseph and Mary stop at each of our bedroom doors as if to say “is there room for us here?” The answer, sadly, is no each time.

There are so many ways we continue to refuse access to them. We shut the doors in the faces of those weary travelers, forcing them to look elsewhere to stay. We say "no room" dozens of times every day, not realizing who and what we are shutting out.

There is no room in our overly busy lives this time of year--from the moment we rise through the frenetic pace of work and social activities,--there is no room for the solitude of quiet prayer and reflection, and for shared gratitude and grace.

There is no room in our schools, where all mention of religious practices outside of academic study is unwelcome and eagerly litigated.

There is no room in our city squares or buildings, where nativity scenes are banished and replaced with winter festival scenes of snowflakes and snowmen.

There is no room in our homes as the TV and computer become the altars of worship and occupy more of our time than anything else.

There is no room in our hearts and minds as we crave “things” more than the freely offered gift of life.

With the offer of an animals' dwelling, there was sanctuary for the weary and burdened. It remains so to this day, unexpected and remarkable in how unremarkable it was.

Joseph and Mary sadly remain outside the back door of our lives, in a place inhospitable, cold and dank. Few of us would invite our special company into the barn first and foremost. Yet these travelers did not seek an invitation to come in the front door, with fancy meals and feather beds and fresh flowers on the cupboard. It is the dark and manure strewn parts of our lives where we need them most. That is where He was born, and that is where He remains, amid the humblest part of our being, the part we do not want to show off, and indeed, most often want to hide.

On Christmas Eve, Joseph and Mary arrive, welcomed, to the Nativity.

On Christmas morning, He arrives. Finally.

And there is plenty of room in the empty manger of our hearts.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Micheline Murray11/03/08
I REALLY liked this. The tie of "no room" for Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem and that we have no room for Him in our lives today is a great reminder for us all. I also love your family tradition!
Sharon Kane11/03/08
You asked for objective criticism so I'm going to be bold here. I think there are 2 things that don't work in this piece. The first is the sudden jump from the homely tradition of moving the Mary and Joseph figures around the house, to the moral message. When you bring it back at the end to the Mary and Joseph figures the writing has moved too far away from them for the reader's mind to get back there.
Secondly the moral message itself is rather negative and leads to feelings of guilt. These may be genuine or false, but they are almost impossible to resist. It needs a more positive thread somewhere.
I hope this helps you in your writing.
Karlene Jacobsen11/03/08
The message is clear, yet sad and needs hope brewing by the end. I'm not sure how this could be accomplished though.
The mechanics are well done though.
Dee Yoder 11/05/08
Contrary to the other comments, I found this entry to be fully hope-filled and positive, for it is the best thing of all that Christ is willing to STILL enter into our sin-stained lives and bring His wholly pure and loving grace with Him! That's the whole point of the stable...a symbol of what He was coming to rescue US from. This is such a unique and carefully thought-out entry, that it simply blows me away with its depth of understanding. Don't change a thing about your style--I love it and always have. You never fail to make me THINK, and I, for one, appreciate that greatly in a writer. I need to be sure and read your stuff regularly! (Sorry I have been so absent in the Challenge reading lately... I can see what I have been missing!)