Summary: The Christmas Touch - Part 1 Lessons learned from the innkeeper.
Advent: This morning we begin a journey. It’s a journey to Bethlehem. In the midst of a fast paced month of frenzied activity, you’ll be happy to know we’re taking a slow train to our destination. If you’re ready, the train is ready to leave the station en route to a most eventful Advent, so "All aboard!"
Our Christmas train will be winding through familiar landscapes and neighborhoods. As we make station stops along the way, we will be encouraged to pick up passengers who (like Joseph and Mary) are in need of hospitality. As a matter of fact, today we will learn from the example of a person who has been undeservedly criticized for the manner in which he extended a neighborly touch.
Read: Luke 2:1-7
To help illuminate our way as we journey together, we light the first candle of our wreath in memory of the innkeeper. Let’s thank the Lord for the example the innkeeper provides of touching our neighbors with God’s available love. In a world where there is typically "no room" and little time, may God help us to make room and find time.
✎ The beginning of the Christmas season means, among other things, it is time to start singing Christmas carols. I thought it would be fun to see if you recognize some traditional carols that sound like they had been retitled by those guys who write the IRS tax codes. As you recognize the carol, go ahead and call it out. Ready? Here we go.
>> Nocturnal Quietude (Silent Night); Listen, the Celestial Beings Lyrically Vocalize (Hark, the
Herald Angels Sing); Exuberance Designed for the Orbiting Sphere on Which Resides Humanity (Joy to the World); Inquiring of the Virgin’s Newborn Identity (What Child Is This?); An Arrival at Zero-One-Hundred Hours during an Absence of Atmospheric Activity (It Came upon a Midnight Clear).
We normally don’t think of taxes this early; however Jesus’ birth two millennia ago had to do with the taxation of the Roman Empire. Augustus Caesar wasn’t seeking popularity. Caesar was not making the campaign promise, “No new taxes!” The Roman government required all adult males to return to the town of their birth to take part in a census; this head count would then be used as a tax roll.
The Bible doesn’t give us all the details; we’re left with a lot of room to read between the lines. For the next few moments let’s try to imagine what it must have been like in Bethlehem. We don’t know the innkeeper’s name, but he certainly had a lot in common with the other innkeepers in town.
✎ Motel row was in chaos that night. The manager of the local Motel 6 had difficulty leaving his light on because of the constant traffic of those coming into town to register for the census.
✎ The Holiday Inn Bethlehem was hardly a vacation getaway. A comment card left at the front desk said the hotel should be renamed. For the hotel guests and the staff, the response to Caesar’s edict was anything but a vacation. Somehow Holiday Inn didn’t sound right.
Tired travelers arrived in Bethlehem wanting the same things: a roof overhead, something good to eat and a warm bed. The problem was finding a place that would welcome you.
Mary and Joseph delayed going to Bethlehem as long as possible; the timing couldn’t be worse. Mary was ready to give birth anytime; the trip would be so much easier if the baby were to be born first. Unfortunately, the baby was in no hurry to be born, so reluctantly the young couple left their home in Nazareth. Upon their arrival in Bethlehem “No vacancy” signs flashed in neon red.
Fortunately Mary and Joseph were not turned away by everyone. An unnamed innkeeper, sensitive to the obvious need of this couple from the country, came to their rescue. He led them to an outdoor shelter for livestock, where they could be shielded from the wind and where, in the end, the baby could be cradled in a straw-lined feeding trough.
Now, before you speculate about the innkeeper’s generosity (or lack of it), I’d encourage you to consider the context. Give the guy a break. If his motel was maxed out, what other options did he have? None of his other paying guests were willing to give up their rooms. I am impressed by the fact that he went out of his way to welcome Mary and Joseph into his life (as stressed-out as it certainly was).
✎ Take a look at what things might have been like for the innkeeper. “The King Is Born” Nest Entertainment.
The innkeeper was willing to share what he had with Mary and Joseph. What lessons can we learn form His example? What does it take to reach out and share “The Christmas Touch” with our neighbors?