By Ven Joanne Grenfell, the Archdeacon of Portsdown
Having just celebrated Christmas, it may be that the words from the Nativity play are still ringing in your head.
‘No room at the inn,’ is the line that you may have heard in your child’s play at the end of last term, usually uttered by children clothed in dressing gowns and tea towels.
Bethlehem was a tiny place, certainly not big enough for a public hotel. The word used in the Gospel of Luke probably means an upper room, perhaps in the home of a distant relative.
Since there was no room there for unexpected guests, the expectant Mary and Joseph had to camp out downstairs, where the animals were kept.
If the place of Jesus’ birth was even less cosy than the stables of our modern imaginations, then the gospel writers really are trying to tell us that Jesus, the Messiah, was born in the dirt and grime of everyday life.
Christians believe that God came to be with us through the birth of his son, Jesus. By choosing the most ordinary of births, God demonstrates how absolutely he loves the whole of humanity, each one of us, whatever our background.
Churches across Portsmouth and Southsea are opening their doors this winter to give warmth, shelter, and friendship to the rising number of homeless people who are sleeping rough in our city.
Seven different local churches are part of an ecumenical initiative to house 12 vulnerable people every night for the next eight weeks. It started on Monday.
Volunteers will set up beds, provide food, and commit themselves not only to sharing a meal and caring for rough sleepers, but also to supporting individuals to move on from homelessness.
In response to God’s extraordinary intervention into the world, Christians are called upon to look after the lost, the last, and the least, tending to the poor and suffering – as we remember that each of us can be as vulnerable as the tiny baby Jesus at the time of his birth.
Let’s make sure this new year that there is room in our hearts for compassion to see each other’s needs.