Herman Hoeksema was the first editor of the Standard Bearer.

Because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:7

Evening was falling.

The shadows were growing longer.

Twilight’s hush was spreading a still expectancy over the country surrounding Bethlehem. The landscape’s rich and manifold colors had not as yet been utterly defaced, but the deep blue of Palestine’s heaven, the shining green of the olive and the pale tint of the almond were fast being swallowed up by the dusk and blending in the gray of evening. Even at this late season, for it was winter in the Promised Land, the rich fields, vine-clad hills, and terraced gardens around the City of David presented a picturesque view.

Two weary travelers were approaching the ancient city of Israel’s most renowned king, a man revealing the vigor of youth in spite of his evident weariness, and a woman scarcely having passed the thresh- old ,of womanhood. Judging by their outward appearance, one should not have classed them with the rich of the land. For even though a careful observer might have been reminded of long forgotten royalty and nobility ‘by the features of these two strangers, yet the man made the impression of being a common tradesman and the woman was dressed in the garb of the common Israelitish woman. A long journey lay evidently behind them, for they did not pause to take in the beauty of the evening, and a sigh of satisfaction escaped their breast as, leaving behind them the gardens surrounding the city, they entered the city of their fathers.

In the little town all was astir. For the same command of the mighty Caesar that had brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem caused the city to be overcrowded with visitors that had come to be enrolled. And so it happened that every home was lodging its strangers, that even the inn was filled to capacity, and that no choice was left to the strangers from Nazareth but to turn to one of the caves on Bethlehem’s outskirts, to seek lodging for the night in a place where passing caravans would stable their cattle.

Night had fallen when there they prepare to make their abode for the night.

Because there was no room for them in the inn.

There was no room for them.

And one of them was the blessed among women! Thus the angel had greeted her, when he had visited Mary’s lowly dwelling in Nazareth, with the wonderful message on his heavenly lips that a virgin should bring forth a Son! Thus also had Elisabeth recognized Mary when the latter visited her cousin: “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” And the silent Mary, wont to hide things beneath the quiet surface of her profound heart and given to still pondering, had broken forth in joyous strain: “My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.”

Supremely blessed among women was Mary.

Blessed she was, not simply because of the glad expectation of approaching motherhood. Surely, also this blessing was hers in that night of nights when Joseph and she were crowded out of Bethlehem’s inn and sought lodging in a place for cattle. Gladness fills the heart of the parent, and the sorrows of a laboring mother are soon forgotten for the joy of possessing a child in the world. In anticipation of this happiness Mary took up her abode in the stable that night. Yet, nothing distinguished her in this regard from any mother in the world. Besides, the mere joy to bring a child into the world and for the world is far from unmixed. Expectation of mere motherhood did not make Mary the supremely blessed among women.

Greater joy filled the heart of Mary because of the fact that as mother she might take her place among Israel’s women, who in bringing forth their children labored in the blessed hope of the realization of the promise made to the fathers in times of yore. In the midst of sorrow the eye of these covenant women, believing the promise and looking for a heavenly country with faithful Abraham, looked hopefully far beyond the present and the things of this world, toward the blessed and everlasting reign of David’s mighty Son. In this hope shared Mary. She looked forward to the realization of Israel’s hope. But even this, though distinguishing her from so many thousands of women that labored in vain because they were laboring merely for the world, was not the cause of Mary’s supreme joy and blessedness.

For even among these covenant women and believing Israelitish mothers, Mary occupied a place of unique distinction. Had not the angel that stands before God, mysteriously dropped the message from heaven that she would be mother though still a virgin? And had he not explained upon her anxious query how these things might be, that the power of the Most High would overshadow her and that He who was to be her Son would be called the Son of God and sit on David’s throne forever? Were they, by heavenly injunction, not to call the name of her Son Jesus, because He would save His people from their sin? Mother of Israel’s Savior Mary was to be, the King of kings was to assume her own flesh and blood! This was her unique privilege from the Lord.

And this glad hope was to be realized that very night!

But there was no place for them, not even in the inn. And because there was no place for them, there was no room for Him to whom she was to give birth.

Thus it happens that even at the very moment of His birth, Jesus is crowded out to the very edge of the world. Born in a stable, laid in a manger!

Because there was no room for Him in the inn!

No room for Him!

Strange, yet prophetic incident!

Full of strange and mysterious contrasts is that manger in Bethlehem’s stable. Is that babe not Israel’s King, yet was ever a king born in circumstances less suggestive of royalty, more beggarly and abjectly poor? Is that babe not Mighty God, infinitely glorious, whom the heavens and the heaven of heavens are, not able to comprehend; yet is He not wrapped in swaddling clothes and held by a manger? Was it not the angel’s injunction from God that He must be called Jesus because He was to save His people from their sins? Yet is He not crowded out by the very people He came to save? Israel’s King in miserable poverty! God in swaddling clothes! The Savior crowded out to the very edge of the world!

Yet, that crowded inn is prophetic of the world’s relation to Him that was born in the stable.

There is no room for Him.

No room there is for Him in Israel. No place for Him, the carpenter’s son, in His home town, and presently they push him to the edge of the precipice for the purpose of thrusting Him out of the world. No place for Him in the hearts and minds of the worldly minded bread-seekers of Capernaum and they forsake Him, offended by His speech. No place for Him in Jerusalem that killeth the prophets, among priests and elders, in secret counsel or Sanhedrin. And all this world ultimately crowds together and unites in shouting: “Away with Him, away with Him!”

And they crowd Him to the accursed tree.

Because there was no room for Him in the inn of the world.

But is not the relation toward Him different in the world of today?

Superficially considered it would seem so.

For who does not adore the Master in the modem-religious world and swear by His name? Who, on glad X-mas day, does not take his children to that sweet little baby in its manger-cradle, to teach them how a poor boy with all things against him from his very birth may become a truly great man? Who, in the modem- world, refuses to follow the good Man of Galilee on His travels through the country of His people, to take as his example all the good He did for society, to listen to His remarkable reformatory discourses full of love, to watch Him feed the hungry, help the sick, express His sympathy with the poor and needy and invite publicans and sinners into His company? Or, what is more, who would refuse to follow to Golgotha to take an object lesson that, even as He, so must we be ready to lay down our lives for our fellow men. Surely, the world adores Jesus, the Good Man, the Master who revealed to us the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of man, who taught us to beat our swords into ploughshares and our spears into pruning hooks, the Prince of Peace.

The inn-doors of the world are thrown open wide and all the inside crowd are beckoning Him to take His place among them.

But they labor under an illusion. For it is a Jesus of their own imagination, a Phantom-Man, a dream.

For speak now of the Christ of the Scriptures, whose poverty is ours, who humbled Himself even unto death and shed His life-blood because of God’s justice and our iniquity. Go now to the door of that world-inn and let Jesus speak of sin and righteousness and judgment, and tell the inside throng that they must be washed in His blood and that Christ is nothing to them, no Example, no Master, no Good Man, and no Teacher, if He is not first their Redeemer, who purchased them as His people and must wash the guilty stains from their heart and mind. The inn door will be closed, and from within you will again here the murmur of the Galilean bread seekers: “This speech is hard, who can hear it?”

The world of today is as the world of His own day.

There is no room for Him in the inn.

No room!

How proper it should be thus!

For, on the other hand, in the world’s inn they serve the world’s Prince. He has dominion there. Under his dominion darkness blinds their eyes so that they cannot see the light shining in their midst. Enmity fills the hearts against God and His anointed. And because their works are evil they love darkness rather than light. He is the Light, mercilessly exposing the dark hypocrisy of the human heart and opening the whitewashed sepulchre of the Pharisee’s soul. Without hesitancy He deprives every man of all his boasted glory and self-righteousness, and brings him naked to Him that judges righteously and whose eyes burn through to the deepest recesses of the soul. That dark and hostile world, unless changed by His own gracious power, must refuse to let Him in, cannot but crowd Him out.

And, on the other hand, no flesh may glory in His presence.

For, surely, this poor babe of Bethlehem for whom there was no place in the inn is destined to have room in the world. But it is room, not given Him by the world, but created for Him by the very wonder of His own grace. The glory is all His. From the very edge of the world in the humiliating stable, He pushes His way into the world. Over the cross and through the grave He steadfastly advances till He is received in the highest heavens, angels and principalities and powers being made subject unto Him. Thence, as the Lord of heaven and having become the quickening Spirit, He edges His way into the hearts of thousands from all nations and tongues and tribes, exposing sin, breaking sinful pride, making humble publicans of conceited Pharisees, cleansing and justifying and dwelling in them even as the Father dwells in Him. Thus, by the irresistible power of His grace, He realizes the spiritual temple of God’s covenant: “I in them and thou in me, that we may be perfect in one.”

And presently all things will be united in Him, things in heaven and things on earth, and God shall spread His tabernacle over all.

No room for Him in the inn.

Such was the sad beginning.

But He makes room for Himself. Room in your contrite and broken heart, room in your weary and laboring soul, room in the hearts of all that are given Him by the Father, room in heaven and earth, till the Kingdoms of the world shall be His.

Then there will be room for Him, and for His, and for no other. And all this shall be forevermore attributed solely to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Solely of grace.