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.