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Summary: One of the ways that we reach and touch others as we build bridges of care and friendship in Christ’s name is by reaching out to our neighbors like the innkeeper

(Begin with side entrance to the theme of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Go through the opening routine.)

For many years Fred Rogers sang to us, "Will you be my neighbor?"

The idea of the neighbor came into the discussion between a Pharisee and Jesus Christ when Jesus was asked, "Who is my neighbor?"

And in the story of the Good Samaritan, we catch a glimpse of who and what God thinks about our neighbor - those in need - be they next door or in the next country.

But this morning we are going to visit with some else who illustrates to us the challenge and the opportunity of being a good neighbor - the innkeeper.

It is the first Sunday of the month and the time that we celebrate God’s great love for us as we take time to reflect and remember Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf as we take communion together. Our practice of communion is that it is open to all, so you do not have to be a member of our church to take communion this morning. Please partake in accordance with the dictates of your own conscience and use those moments for times of reflection, prayer, and confession as you need to.

This is also the Sunday for our kids to join us for the entire worship hour and kids it is great to have you with us! Last month, I had you help us picture what fellowship might look like.

You did a great job. In fact, you did such a great job that I am asking you to help me with another picture assignment this morning. Again there are some crayons and paper up front here and I am going to ask you to come a take some crayons and a piece of paper and then return to your seats. After you return to your seats, I will give you your drawing assignment.

(You know, if you are an artist, if you learn by doodling, sketching, drawing, whatever, and you would like to do this, come on up and take some crayons and paper and join the kids in this project.)

Our picture theme for this morning is being a good neighbor. So draw a picture what it means to be a good neighbor, okay? Now, I am not going to speak as long today, so you will have less time this morning to draw but I just want to let you know that and like last time, we are going to line up after the service and show the pictures. Thanks for doing this!

In addition to being the first Sunday of the month, it is also the first Sunday of advent and our advent series is entitled "The Christmas Touch" and this morning, as I have already said, we are going to pay a visit to the innkeeper. But, at the conclusion of this sermon, we are also going to visit, via a video clip a neighborhood that may or may not look like your neighborhoods, but is populated with people like you and me that are concerned for their neighbor’s spiritual well-being.

Our text for this morning, Luke 2:1 - 7 begins with something that we can relate to - a census. Now, one of the realities of a U.S. census is that there are political implications to it. Now what does that mean?

Well, it means that we can be in one US congressional district during one election and then in an entirely different one the next election. So there is a very political process that takes place during the redistricting process because power, votes, and money are at stake. Because if you lose people from one census count to the next your representative’s seat in Congress, not to mention money for various projects in your community, may disappear!

But in our text the primary value of a census was to allow the Roman authorities the ability to tax the people. So, you went back to your place of birth, which is what Joseph did. Bethlehem was Joseph’s hometown. And while there, Jesus was born. But, there was a problem - no room in the village inn.

Now I want us to step back from this situation and look around at what is going on. And a description that I recently read offers us an important perspective on that night:

"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 senseless census.

The desk clerk at the Holiday Inn was writing a memo to his corporate office, requesting that the hotel be renamed. There was no way a visit in Bethlehem at this time could be considered a holiday. For the hotel guests and the staff, the riotous response to Caesar’s self-serving edict was anything but a vacation. Somehow Holiday Inn didn’t sound right.

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