On the night that Jesus was born, shepherds came to the manger to worship Him. They found the experience so spiritually beneficial that they said to Joseph, “All of Bethlehem should be joining us! Go out and find more worshipers!”
“Will we have enough room?” Mary asked. “Bethlehem is not a large town, but even so, I’m not sure we can fit them all.”
“We’ve already seen miracles tonight,” Joseph said. “The Lord will provide for the worshipers.”
So Joseph went out into the streets of Bethlehem to invite the residents to come worship their king. When he got to the first door, he knocked and a young man answered.
“Hello, good sir!” Joseph said to him. “The Messiah has just been born right down the road. Would you like to come and worship Him?”
“Sorry, I can’t,” the man answered. “I’m in the middle of a really intense game of dice.”
Joseph didn’t want to be judgmental, but he asked, “Can’t you just delay your game?”
“No,” the man replied. “We always have our games on Tuesday night, and if I miss one, then I’ve missed it.”
“But isn’t it more important to worship the Messiah?” Joseph asked.
“He’ll still be there tomorrow,” the man said. “I’ll come over when I get a chance.” He then shut the door.
“Well, that didn’t go like I planned,” Joseph thought to himself. He continued to the next house and knocked on the door. This time, a young woman answered, carrying a child in her arms.
“Hello, miss!” Joseph said with a respectful nod of the head. “The Messiah has just been born. Would you like to come and worship Him?”
“Is there child care?” the woman inquired.
“What do you mean?” Joseph asked.
“While I’m worshiping…Will there be something for my children to do?”
“They’re welcome to join us while we worship,” Joseph replied, somewhat puzzled.
“But they won’t know what’s going on,” the woman objected. “They don’t really understand what it means that He’s the Messiah.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Joseph answered. “Even if they don’t understand everything, they can still join us.”
“You have a lot to learn about children,” the woman concluded, shutting the door.
Joseph had to concede that the woman was right about one thing: he did have a lot to learn about children. Still, he didn’t understand why people weren’t more excited at the prospect of worshiping. “Maybe the next family will want to come!” he told himself. When Joseph knocked on another door, an old man answered. Joseph asked him the same question, but the man was somewhat incensed.
“It’s Tuesday night!”
“Yes,” Joseph replied. “Is that a problem?”
“We only worship the Messiah on Sundays,” he answered.
“Only on Sundays?” Joseph said, confused once again.
“Yes, Sunday morning and Sunday evening.”
“Can’t you make an exception?” Joseph asked. “Surely you can worship on other days too—you know, if it’s a special occasion.”
“Rules are rules, and I don’t make the rules, son!” the old man said, slamming the door in his face.
Joseph was a bit discouraged at this point, but he remembered the importance of the occasion and decided to persevere. He knocked on the door of the next house and gave the same question to a somewhat younger man.
“Are you going to have a Christmas tree?” the man asked.
“What’s a Christmas tree?” Joseph responded.
“Oh, no, no, no!” the man said. “You must be like that guy next door!”
“No, I’m not! I’m really not!” Joseph cried, even as the door was slammed yet again.
By this point, Joseph realized that there was probably something wrong with the whole neighborhood, so he tried going to the next street. He knocked on one of the doors, and a woman answered.
“Come in, come in! The Messiah is born!” she said before he had a chance to speak.
“Yes, He is, but how did you know?” Joseph asked, crossing her threshold.
“I heard it from Samuel, who heard it from Rebecca, who overheard the angels singing to the shepherds.”
“Oh, wonderful!” Joseph said. “Would you like to come and worship Him? You can bring the whole family!”
“Great! I want to make sure we all get our gifts,” the woman told him.
“Well, some people might bring gifts, but you don’t have to if you have nothing prepared,” Joseph responded.
“No, no. I meant the gifts for us,” she explained. “I was told we all get gifts from the Messiah.”
Joseph was perplexed. “Do you come from another culture where people give away gifts when they have a baby?”
“Wait…You mean to say you’re not giving out gifts?” she said, clearly annoyed.
“Sadly, no, but you can bring a gift if you wish.”
“Oh! So if I bring a gift, then I’ll get a gift!”
“Um….Not exactly. I mean, such an opportunity to worship is surely a gift!”
“What’s the point of giving a gift if you’re not going to get one in return?” the woman concluded, shoving Joseph back into the street.
By this point, Joseph had gone well beyond disappointment and into the realm of despair. Nevertheless, he knocked rather wearily on the next door.
“Who’s there?” a man shouted, not bothering to open it.
“It’s Joseph. I’ve just come from the birth of the Messiah. I was wondering if you’d like to come and worship Him.”
The door opened a few inches, and the man said, “So nice of you to stop by, but I’m all set.”
“You’re all set? What do you mean?” Joseph asked.
“I’ve got a painting of Him. Look!” the man said, opening the door all the way.
Sure enough, there was a small and rather hastily produced painting of the Madonna and child inside, the looks on their faces most angelic.
“How did you get that so quickly?” Joseph asked.
“Miniatures in a Minute, just down the road,” he replied.
“But surely you don’t think this is the same as seeing Him in person…I mean, it’s a painting,” Joseph responded.
“Of course,” the man said, “but when I pray before the painting, the object of the painting receives my veneration, so there’s no need for me to leave the house!”
“I don’t think that’s how it works,” Joseph said.
“You look like a carpenter. Could you make me a statue of the Messiah?” the man asked.
“I sense we’re not making any progress, but thank you,” Joseph replied, leaving the man to enjoy his painting.
The next house was occupied by a woman and her family. When Joseph repeated his invitation yet again, he was somewhat surprised to hear her say, “I do want to worship the Messiah, but surely you don’t think I need to travel to a manger to do that!”
“Well, maybe, but wouldn’t you rather worship Him at the place where He’s located?” Joseph asked.
“He’s God, and God is everywhere,” the woman insisted.
“Yes, but don’t you want to join the other worshipers?”
“I find other worshipers distracting,” she explained. “It gets in the way of my own experience. I prefer to stay here and wait for God to visit me.”
“But….but…He’s just down the road,” Joseph said.
“Sure, if you want to have the same experience as everyone else,” she replied, “but you have to understand, the way I experience Him…it’s so unique and special. I can’t wait to hear what He will tell me next!”
“If you want to hear from Him, you should come to the manger,” Joseph insisted.
“You’re such a legalist!” the woman concluded, and once again Joseph was given the boot.
By this point, Joseph was in the depths of despair. He thought he was presenting a remarkable opportunity. Why couldn’t everyone see that they ought to be worshipping at the manger?
Just as he was about to write the city off completely, a young woman called out, “Sir, can you please help me?” She was sitting on the side of the road, and he could see from her attire that she was most likely a woman of ill repute. He had half a mind to continue on before subjecting himself to gossip, but she cried again, “Please sir! I have no one else to turn to!”
Joseph relented and knelt beside her. “What seems to be the trouble?” he asked. “I have a wife and a new child waiting for me.”
“It’s just, you seem to know about spiritual things,” the woman said, “and I need spiritual help.”
Pleasantly surprised that she wasn’t about to beg for money, Joseph replied, “I’ll do what I can.”
“You see, I’m a sinner,” she continued. “I’ve been a sinner all my life, and now my sin is worse than ever. I don’t know how God could ever forgive me. Tell me, is there anything I can do to be right with God?”
“Why, yes!” Joseph said, regretting his earlier grumpiness. “Come to the manger! Come and meet the king of kings!”
“Oh, surely not!” she replied. “I can’t possibly go worship Him. I’m not worthy.”
“None of us are,” Joseph answered, “but if you repent and believe, you will have life in His name. He desires your worship as much as anyone.”
The woman smiled and accompanied Joseph back to the manger, where they joined Mary and the shepherds in worshiping the newborn Messiah.