Sunday, December 20, 2009

No Room for a Christmas Child

I have many Christmas stories. I imagine everyone over the age of ten has at least a few Christmas stories. I always thought of myself as a bit of Christmas child. No my birthday isn’t in December or near Christmas. My birthday comes in early November. So why am I a Christmas child? Well I suppose everyone who knows Jesus is a Christmas child. So how is my story different? I think that my life in Christ started at Christmas.

My parents were born-again, spirit-filled people. My spiritual heritage runs very deep.  From what I understand, I was “unexpected.”  My father was already in his 50’s and my mother, 19 years younger than my dad was in her early 30’s. They had decided ten years before that their family was complete.

God evidently had something else in mind.  I came along. 

Our family traditions were all Norwegian. Christmas Eve was the start of Christmas in our Norwegian neighborhood in Brooklyn. We put up our tree and had our presents all on Christmas Eve.  We were still singing around a Christmas tree well into January.

Christmas day was for church.  We’d dress up in the morning and walk to church. It was just like Sunday minus Sunday School. Sometimes we would crunch in the snow or put on galoshes for the slush of a melting snow. There was a holy hush on Christmas morning.

Of course, I remember nothing of my first Christmas. I was seven weeks old. I would beg my mother to tell me the story though; I loved to hear it.  That first Christmas my parents walked to church on Christmas morning with me.  It was the first time I was carried to church. I imagine I was wrapped up in many blankets.

That Christmas morning, a white haired tall Norwegian Pastor with a strong accent asked the Yohannesen’s (Johannesen) to come to the front.  Something very special was going to happen that morning. The new baby girl in the Yohannesen family, Yoyce Ann Yohannesen was going to be dedicated to the Lord.

That morning, my parents passed their unexpected infant daughter over to Pastor Dahl. He prayed. I wonder if he had any prophetic sense when he prayed over me. In recent years, I’ve had a sense that my dad had some prophetic knowing concerning me. Did any of them know or sense anything then?

It all started there… it all started in a little Norwegian Pentecostal church where everyone had an accent and sang about the Vonderful Grase of Ye-sus.  My life was given over to the Lord.  No, it didn’t assure my salvation, but it did start something.

Every Christmas as the annual church Christmas program would near, I would have to learn a long “piece.” A “piece” is your part of the Christmas program. It starts when you are barely old enough to talk and you get up and say “Welcome baby Jesus” and sing Away in a Manager complete with motions. The parents beam and pray you don’t cry or do something inappropriate like pick your nose,  wet your pants or worse.

 We had an old upright piano. My mother didn’t play well but she would look for a song for me to sing. A solo! In addition to the LONGEST piece or narration in the program.  Early in my life, she found a song for me. The words of the chorus have stayed with me all these years:

"No room for the Baby in Bethlehem's inn,
Only a cattle shed!
No room on this earth for the dear Son of God,
Nowhere to lay His head!
Only a cross did they give to my Lord,
Only a borrowed tomb!
Today He is seeking a place in your heart,
Will you still say to Him - no room?"

Year after year after year, I would stand with a new outfit on, in front of the congregation, and sing this song.  I always thought someone would come to the Lord, every time I sang that song.

My father was a janitor at a bank, my mother a homemaker. My father never went to High School and my mother didn’t finish it. They lived in a two-bedroom first floor railroad flat apartment. Times were hard for them. They had no room for the new baby that God gave them. Nevertheless, they made room for me.  And then, they dedicated me to the Lord.

Jesus came to earth as an unexpected child. There was no room for Him that night in Bethlehem.  That seems tragic. There is a greater tragedy. It is that we make so little room for Him in our hearts.

Today I ask you that question that I sang for many years. Today He IS seeking a PLACE in YOUR heart! 

Will you still say to Him - no room?


  1. Joyce, we must get to know one another! I'm so glad that you googled the Salem church and came to my blog Heart Choices. I don't think there was any coincidence there.

    My parents were born in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn and both of their families were members of Salem. However, they moved out to Long Island about 1950 I believe.

    I will email you personally more information but I think we'll have some people in common. I'm really excited about getting to know more about you.

    Merry Christmas and God Jul!

    Debbie Sumstad Petras

  2. I was blessed to visit with you today Joyce! I hope you have had a wonderful Christmas!!!


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