Summary: Luke 2:7 And she gave birth to her firstborn Son and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Making Room for Jesus – The Innkeeper
Characters of Christmas – Message Three – 2010
Gages Lake Bible Church
December 19, 2010
Pastor Daniel Darling
I’m not sure about you, but when I look a nativity scene or think about the Christmas story and the unique characters God chose to use, the one guy that really seems intriguing to me—is the innkeeper.
We’ve sort of projected all kinds of ideas onto him—as to who he is. At my old church, I actually played the part of an innkeeper in the Christmas story.
Basically I dressed up in a biblical costume—which are really just large amounts of mismatching fabric that we think they wore back then. It’s funny, I’m guessing Joanne Fabrics and Hobby Lobby really love Christmas and Easter, because churches around the world just go nuts with fabric.
Apparently some scholar somewhere decided that the people back in the day wore really bad patterns and weird stuff on their heads. How do they know? Did they dig these up in an archeological site or something?
At any rate, I played the part of an innkeeper. Essentially my job was to wear or grow a beard, wear a biblical costume, and attempt to do a Jewish accent and try to barter with the make-believe Joseph, whose wife was bursting at the seams.
I was no good at it. My accent ended up sounding like a cross between Middle-Eastern, British, and Chicagoan. Not a good mix.
Acting, definitely not my forte. George Clooney has nothing to worry about.
The God of No Accidents
When we think about this story and we read it, even today, it just seems so unreal. That Jesus Christ, the Son of God the Creator, was sent to this earth to be born in such terrible circumstances.
And we don’t even really fully grasp how primitive, how poor these conditions were. If Joseph was anything like me, he was kind of freaked out when he arrived at this Bethlehem Holiday Inn.
I’ve been present for the birth of all three of my children and my one request of my wife was this: please don’t have your baby in the car. And fortunately, even though we’ve had one baby born on Christmas Eve and one on New Year’s Eve, we haven’t had a baby born in the car.
But here is Joseph, I’m sure he’s planning this entire thing out, right? He probably had an idea of where they’d like to have their home, there in Nazareth. But then Caesar Augustus issues a decree and essentially everyone in the Roman Empire, which included Palestine, had to go to their ancestral homeland and fill out the census. Joseph was apparently from Bethlehem, so he was forced to travel back. But there was the issue of the baby. He wasn’t going to travel 80 miles to Bethlehem and leave Mary home to have the baby. So he had to bring her with him.
I wonder if it was something they argued about? And did they leave with enough time to get to Bethlehem before the baby would be born. Perhaps they thought they did, but the ride “expedited” the pregnancy. Kind of like taking a pregnant wife on Rt. 53. It kind of speeds it along—if you know what I mean! Like a natural way of “inducing” labor!
But here is Joseph, he’s panicked. He’s harried. He’s worried and he arrives in Bethlehem. And you have to know this about Bethlehem.
Today, it’s a busy city—filled with a mix of Christians and Jews and Muslims. I’ve visited twice and probably had one of the best meals of my life, cooked by Palestinian Christians.
But back when Jesus was born, Bethlehem was a town of maybe 1,000 people. It had a rich history—where Rachel’s tomb is, also the hometown of King David.
But in that day, it was an out of the way, tiny Jewish town. Probably not even on the map. I’m thinking your GPS would have had a hard time finding it. And Google Maps would get you lost if you tried going there. It definitely wasn’t an important town. It wasn’t a big suburb or a place where anything important happened. The people who lived there were small-town folks, rural people, farmers, shepherds.
But this town was where the Son of God would choose to enter the world. I’m guessing that those who studied the prophets, Micah and read about Bethlehem probably scratched their heads in disbelief.
But God arranged all the circumstances, working through human activity, for His promises to be fulfilled. He moved in the heart of the Caesar Augustus, to declare a census. He worked even through the seemingly unimportant background of Joseph, who had to go back to Bethlehem. He worked through Joseph’s choice to bring Mary. He worked through Joseph’s character—Joseph would follow the law, Joseph would not abandon his wife-to-be.