Out of Place

Today’s Devotional is offered by Chris Aho

In June of 1999, Natalie and I had bummed our way to Maui on my dad’s acquired airplane and hotel miles for our honeymoon. On our last night, we splurged and followed our Frommer’s guide to the Plantation House at the Kapalua Golf Resort, ready for a fancy meal. We were bright-eyed 22-year-olds who considered the Outback Steakhouse fine dining and immediately, it was clear, we were out of our league.

Wanting to fit in, we ordered tea because we didn’t drink wine and were too embarrassed to order Sprite. But when the tea came, it was not sweet. It was not even unsweet. What arrived was two cups with saucers and a porcelain kettle of hot water to pour over tea bags. We kept our composure as we learned to steep tea, on the spot.

I have no idea what I ate that night. I am sure it was a steak. I suspect it was excellent. All I remember is the feeling of not fitting in, ordering tea, and paying the bill. That night, my bill was $81. I had never seen an $81 meal tab before. The Outback was $40. The number 3 at McDonalds was $3. $81 dollars was Outback twice or Chili’s three times!!!

At our wedding, Mikey, our family friend (who was also a dead ringer for Travis Tritt), gave me a $100 handshake. I left that bill with the tab that night. All $100. A 25% tip because, well, I wasn’t going to ask for change.

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That story doesn’t seem like it has much to do with Christmas, but I wonder if it has EVERYTHING to do with Christmas?

I suspect, if some reporting was done with the shepherds from Luke 2, they probably felt out of place in the stable.

And Mary and Joseph? They surely felt out of place after an unexpected pregnancy, a long journey, and no room in the inn.

Later on, how do you think they felt when the Magi showed up with valuable gifts?

We could go on about the ways different people didn’t fit in to this miraculous story, but the point is this:

 When it comes to this story, the gospel, and the good news of Jesus, no one fits in which is exactly the point.

Jesus was born to a poor virgin, in a stable.
They went on the run to Egypt to avoid a massacre at the hands of the rulers.
When Jesus started his ministry, he didn’t call the established religious leaders, he went to the poor fishermen.

If he wanted to fit in, there were ways he could have. There were families, circumstances, cultures, rulers, or even professions he could have drawn close to if he needed to feel completely assured of their place in the world. But the good news of the Gospel, the power of this birth, and the wonderful significance of Jesus’ life, ministry, and resurrection is that he meets us even we don’t fit in. Maybe especially when we don’t fit in.

Today, we celebrate Jesus’s birth and we welcome our savior. When we think about it, though we do our best in every way, we are still outsiders who do not quite fit in, and the best news is that is precisely who Jesus arrives to first. This gospel story is not about all the things we do right or the ways we get everything right. Instead, this story is powerful because we don’t fit in, aren’t fitting in, and Jesus welcomes us anyway. Jesus is the savior for those who don’t fit in perfectly and are ready to acknowledge our deep need for something more.

Thanks be to God that on this Christmas day, we can welcome him just like he welcomes us.