Summary: This sermon is a first-person narrative from the perspective of the innkeeper. We have all too often made the innkeeper into a bad guy. What if he did everything for the family that he could do?
Well, it would seem I was between a rock and a hard place. I was in a situation, where there were no easy answers. I looked hard for the simple answers because, you know, they say the simplest is always the best. But, it wasn’t a simple lesson I faced. Later in his life Jesus faced several of those times when, what seemed on the surface to be a simple question, wasn’t so simple at all. There didn’t seem to be a way out and he went and found one anyway. I didn’t do that so well.
I am Issachar and I own the Inn in Bethlehem. Well, it's an inn if you can call it such. My wife Rachel and I had ten children and with all those kids, we needed a large house. All the children have gone now. It is just Rachel and me and we we're wandering around a big empty house. We needed something else to do. So, we quietly converted our large house into an inn.
We run the inn together. I do all the maintenance work and Rachel does all the cooking. She is such a good cook many of our guests come back just to get another taste of Rachel's cooking. We work hard to keep the inn going.
Some days, we have no guests. Still, we keep going. It can be hard to make a profit with no guests. We live by word of mouth of people hearing about us and they told friends who came, and they told friends and they came and whenever there people had the need, they would come back and stay with us again.
That night was hard. We wanted everyone comfortable so they would come back to the inn, no one was comfortable. Our inn was packed. All of the bedrooms upstairs were filled. First, we assigned one family to a room, but it didn't take very long before we were out of rooms. Rachel and I made up our minds then and there that we would sleep in the kitchen. We foolishly thought we would have privacy there. Sure, we would have liked to have have stayed in our own bed but taking care of of our guests was more important.
And the guest kept coming. It was a windfall for all businesses in Bethlehem when Quirinius, the governor of Syria, ordered us to our own cities and be taxed. Bethlehem was my city. My family had lived here for generations, I was born here, and I never left. Most people did go elsewhere, they had to leave to make a living. But that wasn't the case for Rachel and me. We could stay and when we opened the inn we knew we would be able to stay for the rest of our lives.
All the people coming into Bethlehem brought a lot of money into our family treasury. There weren’t many places to stay in Bethlehem. I could have set my price at any level I wanted but I didn’t want to steal from people because I had the opportunity and as a Rabbi once taught me, to do such a thing would be wrong.
Because we had so many people, we were forced to put three and four and five families staying in the rooms. It was a tough night when I had to turn people away. Sometimes they stood in my door and begged and begged and begged pleading for a place to stay but, there was no place, no place in my inn and no place in Bethlehem.
It was extremely late when I heard a knock on the door. I stumbled my way to the door, trying hard to not step on or stumble over any of the people who were sleeping on every available square inch of floor. When I opened the door I found a couple before me. He was a fairly young man, at least to me. She was a pregnant teenage girl who looked as though she could deliver at any moment. I assumed she was his wife.
The young man introduced himself as Joseph then he introduced the girl as Mary. He asked if he could rent a room. I didn't have the room. But there was something in Joseph's face I couldn’t send away. He said, “Anything you can do to help us would bless us. I grabbed my coat and put it on, then motioned for them to follow.
It was an unbelievable sight there were people sleeping everywhere. Still they kept coming. Joseph and Mary followed to the back and the barn. That night it was the best I could do. It was warm and safe and I knew they were going to need it.
Joseph asked where to find the midwife. I didn’t want him to leave Mary unattended. That could have been a new problem. I told Joseph I would find the midwife who delivered a baby boy named Jesus to Mary and Joseph. Not long after that, things settled down in the barn and I headed for bed too .