Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

MACCA Advent Service

Thoughts on The Innkeeper
St. Jacob’s Lutheran Church, Massillon OH
Luke 2:1-7

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

First off, I used to play in a band.  And we actually played two concerts in this church.  The most-recent of those was in 1987.  So . . . it's good to be back

So the assignment for the preachers these four Wednesdays in Advent is to put ourselves in the place of one or more of the characters in the Christmas story.  I decided it would be fun to go with the Innkeeper, since I had some thoughts about that already in my head.  Except here’s the thing:  There really isn’t an Innkeeper in the story.  At least not in the way that there are shepherds, or Joseph, or angels.  The only mention of an inn is in Luke, the verse we just heard, and that mention is simply “because there was no place for them in the inn.”

An Innkeeper might be implied in our 21st century hearing, but there certainly isn’t one in the text.  The inn itself is just sort of mentioned as an afterthought.  An explanation for why they’re out back in the stable.  We aren’t given a whole lot to go on here, but we can imagine.  

First of all, I’m intrigued that it says, “There was no room for them at the inn.”  Is that because nobody wants all that noise in the room next to them?  Is it because the last place a pregnant mother wants to give birth is at a crowded inn?  And it raises the question, did the innkeeper reject them, turn them away, or is it that there just isn’t any room?  Both of those questions can sort of turn back on us.  Jesus is coming.  Do we reject him?  Or do we turn him away because there’s just no room for him in our lives?

Of course, that idea could be used to make you feel bad for focusing too much on buying presents and stuff.  Like I could shake my fist at you and ask, “ARE YOU MAKING ROOM FOR JESUS THIS CHRISTMAS?”  But that’s not really my style, and it’s not very grace oriented, is it?  I’d be chased out of a Lutheran church for suggesting that you could be guilted into welcoming Jesus.  Martin Luther would put me on his naughty list.

But how about this idea.  Maybe the Innkeeper is actually being a gracious host.  Like, imagine that the Innkeeper sees Mary is about to give birth.  The inn is crowded with noisy strangers.  And in an act of compassion, the Innkeeper takes her around back and finds a quiet stable for her to bring this baby into the world.  Maybe the Innkeeper is compassionate and caring, rather than someone who slams the door in the face of stressed-out parents.

My thinking is that the Innkeeper is all of these.  A perfect metaphor for whatever you need to see.  Some of us don’t have room for Jesus, and need to be reminded to make room for Jesus in our lives.  And some of us need to look outside ourselves, and to be reminded to watch out for those who need our help.  The Innkeeper is sort of the perfect blank slate for all of us at Christmas time:  Some of us are ready.  Some of us turn him away.  Some are making extra steps to make others comfortable.  

And in a way, it doesn’t matter how the Innkeeper treated Mary and Joseph when they knocked on the door.  Because Jesus came into the world either way.  Whether welcomed or rejected, this baby is coming.  Salvation is coming, ready or not.

The song we’ll be singing in just a few minutes captures this idea perfectly, in my opinion.  The fourth verse says, “O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray, cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.”  Our hearts, our lives are like that manger.  And you notice that it’s not up to us to get that manger ready for Jesus?  The song asks for God to cast out our sin and enter in.  The Innkeeper might have rejected Jesus; the Innkeeper might have had compassion and set Mary up as comfortably as possible.  But it is God who sends the baby, whether we are ready or not.  Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.  Indeed.  Come, Lord Jesus.


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