The prison warden circulated a note to inmates asking for suggestions on the kind of party they'd recommend for his 25th anniversary. The prisoners all had the same idea: open house!
Christmas is the season when many people have “open house” parties. But “open house” is misnamed, isn’t it? When you plan an open house, do you invite everyone? I rather doubt it. We must be exclusive, for there isn’t enough food, or space or time to invite everyone. Some folks by necessity get left out
This is the way much of life is. Travel on an airplane is exclusive: one must purchase a ticket, come to the airport at the appointed hour and pass through security. College enrollment is exclusive: one must score well on the ACT or GRE, be accepted and pay tuition. Marriage is exclusive: one must find a willing mate, take a blood test, buy a license and locate an officiate.
And sadly, some organizations are exclusive. Only certain kinds of people are welcomed. We build walls separating us from others and erect signs reading “Members Only” or “No Trespassing.”
However, on the first Christmas in Bethlehem, the Creator God sponsored a non-exclusive open house. The invitation went out to everybody. Note the message given the shepherds: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to ALL people” (Luke 2:10, emphasis added).
It's significant that these shepherds received an angelic invitation. They were unclean men, both physically and religiously. Their work precluded matters of social decorum and religious ritual. The Old Testament law specified they would be unwelcome in the temple, and they probably were unwelcome at an inn. But they found welcome with a Nazarene family in a stable.
On the other side of the social spectrum were the wise men whose invitation was sealed with a star. They were intelligent, revered and probably wealthy. They, too, found a warm welcome at Bethlehem’s stable--not because of their bank account, but because they humbled themselves before the newborn king.
There were no walls, no barriers and no “members only” signs at the manger.
Later Jesus himself said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Here I am! I stand as the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Matthew 11:28, Revelation 3:20).
To a world of exclusion where petty men build walls of restriction, the message of Christmas comes: salvation is available to all people. God is throwing a party, and everybody’s welcomed.