Summary: A Christmas Eve sermon
Christmas Eve is finally here!
I thought I would never make it!
I actually thought that sometime during the past few days some desparate shopper would drive me off the road. I mean, people are driving like maniacs out there. Of course, it is not as if traffic is always good in Atlanta, but you have to admit that it has been particularly bad for the past few days.
But we survived the traffic.
And we survived the shopping. I’ve never seen such long lines! I went to Barnes and Noble Bookstore the other day, stood in line, and by the time I got to the cash register I had finished reading the book.
OK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not much!
And school programs! Preschools and day care centers have had their Christmas programs, usually with 100 terrified children, a dozen teachers, and a vast crowd of parents and grandparents, each looking at their children through their camera’s viewfinder.
And sending out cards, and mailing gifts, and --- well, all the other things!
And we survived it.
When we find the time to settle down and read what the Bible says about Christmas and the birth of Christ, we fondly remember all those wonderful characters of the story of the first Christmas. Mary and Joseph, the baby Jesus, the wise men and shepherds, the angels.
One of my favorite ones is the Innkeeper.
But that is a character that is not actually in the Bible.
The Scripture simply says that Mary and Joseph had to stay in a stable because there was no room for them in the Inn.
For all we know, they might never have spoken to the innkeeper. Perhaps because of the crowds coming to Bethlehem for the census, it may have been common knowledge among the travelers that there was no need to even try to find a room at the Inn.
But we like to imagine in our minds that Mary and Joseph actually went to the Innkeeper and were rudely sent away. These poor travelers, one of them pregnant and ready to give birth any minute, are sent away by this rude, uncaring Innkeeper.
When churches have Living Nativities, or when Hollywood makes another movie about Jesus, we like to see this character portrayed as mean. A villain. Rude and nasty.
BUT -- I think that there is something about the Innkeeper we identify with.
Here is a man who has no room in his Inn for Christ.
Many of us have no room in our hearts for Christ.
How many of us come to church every week, but in this time of year when we ought to be experiencing the full spiritual presence of Christ, don’t feel anything spiritual at all. Here it is Christmas, we ought to be feeling the wonder of Christ’s birth, but we don’t. There is no room in our hearts for Christ.
Christ has been pushed out by all of the rush of the traffic, the press of shopping, the anxiety of end of the year exams and tests in school, the demands made upon us by having to visit, or having to receive visitors.
There is no room in our hearts for Christ.
On the other hand, there are many here who come infrequently to church because the stress of the whole year keeps Christ at arm’s length. There is always work to do, always other places to go, always some sporting event to attend on a Sunday.
And so there is no room for Christ in your heart. Christ is pushed aside so other things can take hold of our lives.
Now it is not that we are villains and evil people when this happens.
It just happens.
It’s like the Innkeeper.
Since the Bible doesn’t mention anything about him, we like to imagine that he is rude and nasty. “Go away. There’s no room for you here.”
But I suspect the real innkeeper was just doing his job. Just going through his life. He was probably apologetic. “Gee I’m sorry Ms Mary, but there’s no room for you. And it would be unfair for me to go and tell one of the guests who’s already here and settled in that they have to leave to make room for you and your child.”
The Innkeeper wasn’t being mean. He was just being faithful to all of the other guests in his inn. He was just being faithful to all of the other demands of his life.
So that in the final outcome, there just wasn’t room for the Christ child in his inn, or in his life.
And when we push Christ out of our lives, for many of us, it is not that we are intentionally deciding, “I want Christ out of our lives.”