6-7 While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel. (Luke 2:7 The Message)
I chose to use Eugene Peterson’s translation of the Bible, known popularly as “The Message’, for today’s Scripture lesson. I have a bit of a love/hate reltionship with this translation. It’s very readable. Anything that invites people to read their Bibles is a good thing. Yes, Peterson often gets a bit cute with his translations at times that seems a bit distracting.
Take for instance his translation of the Inn to “There was no room in the hostel”. Really? Hostel? I have a picture of Joseph and Mary with their backpacks arguing with Deiter the hostel manager if he can wedge them in next to the youth from Sweden.
Be it an Inn, a Hostel, or the Bethlehem Motel 6 “We’ll leave the light on for you. Shoot The Light was even born here!” (major miss for a marketing ploy), the point is they had no room. Mary and Joseph are in the stable for the birth of Jesus.
Do you ever wonder about the Inn keeper? I do. I think we unfairly see him as a Hotel version of the Soup Nazi yelling “No room for You” before he slams the door. But that’s probably not the case. He did the best he could given the conditions. The Stable and the manger weren’t optimal, but it was the best he could do. At least he didn’t turn them away.
But here’s what I wonder. I wonder if the Inn Keeper ever went down to check on them? It very well could be that Mary went into labor after they settled into the straw for the night. He might not have known that Mary went into labor.
Running an Inn that is full of people is no easy task. He might have been up all night trying to take care of the seemingly never ending needs of all the people. Or he may have slept through it. It had been a long day, and if there were enough staff to watch over everything after everyone settled down for the night, he may have closed his eyes at the end of a very long day.
Think about that for a moment. Just over the hill, in a stable, the most incredible event has taken place. A virgin has conceived a child. Just over the hill angels blow their trumpets. The shepherds gather in wonder at what has happened. God has entered the world as a human being. The eternal word made flesh. The Light of the world has been born. The Messiah the hope of all the world. Jesus. And the Inn keeper remains, perhaps, blissfully unaware of what is happening outside his door.
When we get to this time of year it’s easy to give way to the Inn keeper in all of us. There is so much to do. So many people to care for. So many tasks. And most of them aren’t selfish tasks. We are doing things for other people. Sometimes we just wear ourselves down, we lull ourselves into a routine habit. And we too, like the Inn Keeper, can miss the miracle of the birth of Jesus.
Jesus is still doing miracles. The Birth of Jesus is still changing lives two thousand years later. He still matters. Let’s not miss the miracle of Christmas. We all have a choice this year. We can choose to be like the Inn keeper and miss Jesus all together. Or we can be like the shepherds. We can choose to hear the proclimation of the angels. We can gather and kneel beside the manger and gaze in wonder. Inn Keeper or shepherd? Who are you?
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><