"...and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." (NIV) Luke 2:7
When I mentioned to my husband a couple of weeks ago that I wanted to do an Advent series on the characters of Jesus' birth, he suggested, "Do the innkeeper!" The innkeeper? "Really?", I thought. Then I thought about it some more and thought, "The innkeeper - yes!" So I start this series with the innkeeper. I think he can teach us so much!!
There is very little written about the innkeeper. We don't know what type of inn he had, we don't know the type of person he was. The Bible shares one important phrase about him, he had no room for Jesus. WOW - that's a pretty hefty sign to have on your back - but then again, he didn't know it was Jesus he was turning away from his inn to his stable.
As I did research on this man, there is much speculation as to the circumstances by which he turned away Mary and Joseph. Let's set the stage. Bethlehem wasn't a bustling city back then - it was a small village. There were many travelers on "the road" due to Cesar Augustus' decree. Inns back then were not the lap of luxury - they were usually a mat on a dirt floor. Yet, the innkeeper couldn't offer them even a mat, he sent them to the stable, filled with animals, feeding troughs, dirt, grime, smelly; need I go on?
One theory was that the innkeeper may have been too busy to try to rearrange "sleeping" arrangements with his current customers to accommodate Mary and Joseph. Another was that he just didn't care and sent them on their way. Yet, there needed to be something in the innkeeper's heart - because he didn't just close the door on them, he sent them to a place - someplace - for their child to be born. He sent them to the place that God chose for His son to be born, the humblest of beginnings, a stable. Although the innkeeper pointed Mary and Joseph in the direction, it was God who had set the path - the path to a place where NOBODY would believe that a king could be born, much less the King of Kings!
Whether the innkeeper was too busy or didn't care, he was there for that wonder of a night. Therefore, let us take some time to see what we can learn from the innkeeper. Are there times when we are too busy for Jesus? Maybe we have lots on the list to do. Come on, it is the Christmas season! Maybe there is cooking, and cleaning, and shopping and . . . . are we too busy? Perhaps we don't care? Really, not care about Jesus? Let's think about it though - maybe we were out too late the night before and want to stay in bed for a few extra winks instead of going to worship. Maybe our Bible is collecting dust while the latest novel is quick on our fingertips. Maybe we don't care?
This is not about a guilt trip, for I myself have fallen into some of the scenarios above! It is about an opportunity to refocus and go on the journey that God created for us, like the innkeeper did when he sent Mary and Joseph to the stable to fulfill God's plan. How would have Jesus' birth been different if he was born IN the inn instead of OUT of the inn? That's a blog post for another time. Today, let's learn from the innkeeper - let's not miss out on the greatest event of all time! Let's not be too busy to spend time with Jesus. Let's care enough to explore his presence in our lives. Let's focus on the stable - that stale, smelly, cold, quiet, miraculous stable.
May your Advent season bring you closer to our Lord, who was born in a lowly stable so that we may all be with Him in paradise.
"Dearest Jesus, how that innkeeper must have felt when he learned WHO he turned away from his inn that evening. Yet, he is there to teach us. May we learn to not be too busy during this Advent season that we don't spend time with you. May we bring you close to our hearts so that we care to spend time with you. May we stay on the path that you have provided for us, God."