In most nativity plays there is an Innkeeper who says (often too enthusiastically!) that they have no room. Was it the innkeeper who had no room or is there more to the story?
Joseph was travelling to his ‘ancestral town’ of Bethlehem because of the census. So here’s a question for you.
If you were travelling to your hometown or to a town where you had lots of relatives would you stay at a hotel?
You would if your relatives houses were really full of other family members who had traveled for the census. If this is what had happened though, you would think that priority would be given to housing a family member whose wife was about to give birth.
You would also need to look for accommodation if your family had rejected you and wouldn’t let you have anywhere to stay and this is much more likely to be what happened. For Mary to have become pregnant outside of marriage would have been considered scandalous in her culture and so for Joseph and Mary to be rejected was to be expected. What is really scandalous is that the family members couldn’t show some compassion and give them somewhere to stay. God’s people should be people of grace and not just people who want to uphold his truth
So where has the innkeeper character come from? Although some Bible translations mention an inn, the original version that was written in Greek simply says that ‘there was no room for them’ but it doesn’t mention where. It’s a very natural thing to read and interpret the Bible according to what we understand and so if we heard that someone traveled to stay somewhere and there was no room then we might assume that hotels were what was being referred to.
Someone though did make room in the place where the animals were kept. They offered Joseph and Mary something and although it was far from the best that they had, it was into this poor choice for a maternity suite that the saviour and light of the world was born.
Here’s the thing, God isn’t fussy where his presence is found. We may not feel worthy and we may not feel that we have given our best but God’s presence will be in and with us if we turn to and call on him.
What really struck me as I thought about the family members who said they had no room was this. Will we make room for Jesus even when he offends us or when we disagree with him?
You see, it’s easy to follow Jesus when life is good and we feel blessed but when things get tough or when Jesus is leading us through a difficult time it’s harder to choose to keep our lives open to him?
Jesus was called ‘the friend of sinners’ because he associated with people that the religious leaders disapproved of. I think that if Jesus was to walk this earth today that he would do lots that would offend a lot of church goers. It’s not that Jesus wants to be offensive, rather that God’s ways are different (and better!) than our own.
Will we make room for and become more like the friend of sinners or will we say that we have no room when obeying Jesus in a particular area or way of life doesn’t suit us?
You could say that Jesus had one of the worst starts in life, he was born in poverty to a refugee family. Rather than letting these traumatic and negative experiences consume and destroy him, he opened himself up to the presence of his loving father.
Will we, like Jesus, make room for the presence of God so that his light might transform us and that it might be seen by the people who we meet.
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Hi Graeme – I found your blog post while looking for an image to use on the front of the bulletin for this Sunday. I’m using the theme “No Room in the Inn” for the 3rd Sunday in Advent. So I came for the image, but read your blog and really appreciated it. I’m going to refer to it in part of my sermon. Just wanted to let you know that your thoughts are still out there working, and being shared with others. Thank you! — Linda Grund-Clampit, lay pastor of Falls City (OR) United Methodist Church.
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