Even if you didn’t grow up in church, you’re most likely familiar with at least a few characters in the Bible’s Christmas story. There’s Mary, the teenage virgin who was told by an angel that she was going to give birth to the Son of God, the One who would redeem humanity now and for all eternity. And Joseph, who, when he learned that his soon-to-be wife was pregnant – not with another man’s child, but through divine appointment – chose to stand by her despite the scandal that it would’ve inevitably created in their hometown. Then there are the shepherds, who had a whole host of angels appear to them while they were out in the fields caring for their sheep (can you imagine what was running through their heads that night?!).
This Christmas season, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about another cast member in the story: the innkeeper. You know the one. The person who told the parents-to-be that he didn’t have space for them. The one who directed Mary and Joseph to an area out back, suitable only for livestock, not for a young mother to bring her newborn son into the world. The character in the story whose inability to make room for Jesus resulted in His first cradle being an unassuming manger, a lowly feeding trough.
Do you think Mary and Joseph told the innkeeper what the angel had told them – that she was carrying the Son of God, the King for whom the Jews had been expectantly waiting and praying for centuries? Do you think the innkeeper was there when the shepherds arrived, out of breath and filled with excitement as they recounted to the new parents the story of how a chorus of angels had filled the sky and told them to come to Bethlehem to see the Redeemer of the world? Do you think that only after the birth of the baby did it occur to the innkeeper that he’d been at the center of a holy miracle – and he’d missed it? Do you think that later, the innkeeper wished he’d made more room for Jesus?
It’s easy to judge him in hindsight, knowing what we know now about Who that baby grew up to be. After all, what Christian would say “NO VACANCY!” to Jesus? But we do say that sometimes, don’t we? Sure, not in so many words, but what about in our actions? Do we keep “Christ in Christmas”, but not in the rest of the year? Do we give God our wholehearted devotion when we need something from Him, but give Him less than our best when life’s going great and we feel like we’re doing just fine on our own? How about the fact that we’re so busy going into debt trying to buy the perfect gifts for our family and friends that we forget to even utter a “Happy Birthday” to our Savior? After all, maybe the innkeeper didn’t mean to shut Jesus out. Maybe it was just oversight. He was busy. Distracted. Wrapped up in his own circumstances. Sound familiar?
This Christmas (and beyond), I’d like to challenge all of us to “make room at the inn”. May we not get so caught up in the commercialism, the hustle and bustle, the “what” of Christmas, that we miss out on the “Who” of Christmas. May we not focus so much on the presents under the tree, that we miss the honor to seek His presence. May He find that we’ve made room, eagerly waiting in anticipation of the miracle that’s about to unfold. Merry Christmas!