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Saint Joseph and Mother Mary looking at sleeping baby Jesus on Christmas day in obscure barn in Bethlehem

Reflections from History and Faith

The Innkeeper’s Decision

By Jeff Olson

We are now amid that time of year when the customary seasonal activities surrounding Christmas occupy much of our personal time. You know — things such as shopping for that perfect gift, finalizing plans for the kids (and perhaps grandkids too) to come home so the family can be together, attending or participating in the Christmas program with your church, attending the Christmas parties with friends, co-workers or church family, buying the ingredients for that special Christmas dinner, looking forward to some of the post-season bowl games and maybe a little more hunting. And, most important of all — having that special time of worship which centers on the reason for the season.

Oh, and be sure to thank poor ole Dad who has made his annual pilgrimage into the attic and with pretty much the same results as last year… hauling down the decorations and then up again to try locating that one box that has the special ornaments that we cannot do without. Then, back for the Christmas lights and knowing better than to expect them all to light up.

After tinkering with them for too long he thought — no problem… As cheap as these lights are we can just buy a new set the next time we are in town. Wasteful? Maybe, but he rationalizes that his time is more valuable than the nominal expense. Naturally, even with the new set there are one or two bulbs which refuse to cooperate. No one will notice… Wrong! Oh well, Dad thinks it is still a beautiful tree and after all, according to Andy Williams: “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” I get exhausted just thinking about it… .

It is interesting to see how this special season of the year reveals much about each of us, especially our priorities and our treasure. It is a vivid illustration of how we tend to take the time or, if you will, make the room for those activities and those people who are most important to us. The key phrase here is “make the room.” In being keepers of our own lives, whom and what occupies our time and our space may tell us something. This is not only true during the Christmas season, but throughout the year as well.

I cannot help but think about this when reading Luke, chapter 2, in the account of Jesus’ birth. In verse 7, we read that there was no room for them in the inn. For so many years I never gave that verse much thought, never considering the innkeeper and his response. While it is true that no innkeeper is actually mentioned in the biblical account, it is likely that one did exist.

On this assumption I will continue with my analogy. I have often wondered why the innkeeper could not have somehow found some room or arranged for Mary, Joseph and Jesus to stay at another inn or in a home. Why do you think this extra effort may never have been done? Why do you think that the innkeeper apparently took the easy way out? Was there really no room in the inn, or was there a refusal to make room for Jesus? Does this not strike a personal chord in your life? — In mine? If not, it is certainly time that it did.

There is a contemporary song of the season from the 1980s called, “There’s a New Kid in Town.” I have news, and it is good news! Jesus is no longer new in town, and He is not a kid anymore. If Jesus’ entry into our lives has made it no further than a seasonal baby in a manger, then in reality He is no more than just an annual stranger.

When it is all said and done, what it all boils down to is a decision. Like our innkeeper in Bethlehem, each of us has a decision to make with Jesus, but first we must understand that this life-changing, world-changing event is only part of the Christmas story. Jesus is no longer the baby in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes, nor the great teacher and miracle worker, nor the suffering servant, nor the crucified sacrifice for our sins. He is the risen King of Kings and Lord of Lords who stands at the door and knocks (Revelation 3:20). The question is: Will the innkeeper — will you — open the door and let Jesus in or will the answer continue to be as it was in Bethlehem so many years ago.

So, before moving any further along with the festivities of the season, just maybe we should decide that Jesus does indeed have a place in all this and then follow through by making room for Him. This He wants so very much, and not for only a season but for a permanent stay.

However, even more than making room for Him, maybe we should take it a step further and give Him His own room. Or… perhaps it would be a kind and generous gesture to give Jesus the best and biggest room you have.

Better yet — why not just humbly open your heart and sign the title over to Him and allow God to convert that old shabby run-down inn into a temple where God can dwell and have total control of your life (1 Corinthians 3:16). This way, instead of being treated as a seasonal transient or as only one resident among many, He would become the owner — the landLORD. What a much-needed change that would be for some of us, and more importantly — what better a birthday present could we give Jesus!

Most importantly to remember though is that whether or not we make room for Jesus, Jesus always makes room for you and me. Will your heart be a Bethlehem this Christmas? Like the innkeeper, each of us must decide.

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