Sorry! Sold Out!

Luke 2:1-7

When I tell and retell the most important stories of my life, there are a few details that I can’t leave out even if I try to. I call them “details,” for they never carried any significant weight on those stories — in other words, the stories I am retelling would have ended the same way with, or without those “details.”

Whether it’s the day when I proposed to my girlfriend, or the day my children were born, or that particular Sunday when I told my last congregation that I would be retiring in a few more months.

There is some detail about every important story of my life that I still may consider “insignificant,” and yet I can’t leave out even if I try to. I’ll give you an example – I was barely 20 and already in the army as a conscript and I told my girlfriend I wanted to marry her as soon as the army would let me out.

The problem was, I had no money to buy a decent ring –no problem, she said!

She soon secured a cheap zirconium ring from this guy in our church who was an amateur jeweler, and a month later she gave me to me, and said, “Now you can propose!” A hot summer day, we were standing by the bus stop which that would take me back to the barracks for at least another month or so.

See? The main story would have ended the same way with or without that cheap ring, or that filthy bus terminal, yet I can’t leave those seemingly “details” out no matter how much I try to. Let me tell you — the story of the manger somewhere in Bethlehem is no different.


There is so much in that story that at first time may seem rather irrelevant, if not insignificant. Colorful, entertaining, even moving brushstrokes enough to get our attention, yet the heart of the story would have been the same within those “details.”

Think for a moment – even if we removed all these “details” – a young pregnant couple without money, the angels, the shepherds, the rather weird folks from the Orient, the stinky manger, the man, the great story would have been the same. That God loved us so much that on that particular day he became one of us to show us how much he loved us and to teach us how to love him and one another.

Now, we may all agree that the Gospel could have told and retold this great story without all these “details,” but that’s not the way the Gospel tells it. Not a single “detail” in this story is insignificant – and for two reasons.

First, each “detail” in this story happens to be there to show us that God mean business — that he really became one of us. Second, each detail in that story happens to be there to speak to our own faith and to enrich our spiritual lives.


I’ll give you an example — it wasn’t enough for the Gospel to just say Jesus “was born,” or even that “he was born in Bethlehem.” The Gospel tells us that babe Jesus was born in a manger because there was no room in the inn. The most unexpected resting place for a newly born Messiah — for God’s first night as one of us.

See? A rather insignificant detail already throwing so much light onto the heart of the story. But there is more here in between the lines.

Have you ever wondered whether it was true that there was no room in the inn? Maybe there was room at the inn — maybe the innkeeper had a couple rooms left, but he saw this unmarried couple with this woman who was obviously pregnant, and decided maybe he didn’t want to rent them a room.

So, Jesus wasn’t born in the inn, rather a stinky manger. And have you ever wondered whether the innkeeper ever realized who he had turned away? Did the innkeeper ever realized that he had missed a chance to open the doors, his own doors, to Christ?

See? — once again, even though this seemingly insignificant detail would not have changed the course of the story, it’s still there to ask us the same question. For we must admit here – let us be honest — that sometimes we behave the same way as the innkeeper did.

Sometimes God knocks at our doors, and we are asked if there is room in our own inn. And sometimes we look out, and we don’t really like what we see, or we don’t like what it would mean to let Christ in, and we close the door and hung a sign that says: “Sorry! Sold Out!


Friends, the Christmas Story is much more than a story about an extraordinary event that happened centuries ago. It is a living story that reminds us – and not only around Christmas Day — but that God also always expect us to say “Yes, Lord, yes, there is room for you, and for the people you may send into my life.”


My dad, also a Methodist preacher, used to close all his sermons like this: “Hermanos y hermanas, Dios continúa hablándonos. ¿Qué vamos a hacer?”

“Brothers and sisters, God keeps speaking to us. What are we going to do?”

Well, that’s true today as well — God is still speaking to us and asking us how we are going to respond.

When the tree is put away, when Christmas dinner has been eaten, when the nativity sets go back into their boxes, the ultimate test of how well we have celebrated Christmas this year will not be what was under the tree or anything like that.

It will be how well, how wide we have opened our hearts. Have we hung a big sign that reads “Sorry! Sold Out!” Or rather one that reads “Please, come in, there is plenty of room in my manger!”


May I now invite you to sing with me one of our most beautiful Christmas carols ever – “Away in a manger”? We can do it as a prayer – no need to stand.

Just like a prayer . . .