Innkeeper, Luke 2:1-7, Advent Midweek, December 18, 2019
Before you think I’m some kind of cruel, heartless landlord, I want you tell you the way I see it. It’s time to set the record straight, once and for all.
People call me an innkeeper and I suppose you could call it an inn. To me it’s just a big house. Well, a few years ago, the missus and I were just rattling around in this big ole house, kids grown up and all, and we were thinking, maybe we could take in a few travelers. My wife has always been mighty good in the kitchen, so we just let the word out and they started to come.
Every night we’d have a person or two, sometimes more, sometimes less. And people would always come back when they were looking for a place to stay in Bethlehem. I think they were coming back for another prize winning bowl of my wife’s famous lamb gumbo.
So there I was, tending to a packed house one night, because of the census and all. I was milling about trying to make everyone comfortable, asking them “Need another pillow? Want something else to eat?”
But this night, you could just tell, something was different. The guests were whispering and chatting with excitement in their voices. Someone made sure to point out how bright the star was above us, this was no ordinary star.
I got so busy tending to my guests and I couldn’t believe how late it was getting. But I never got much sleep because every time I tried to lay down there was another knock at the door. “No more room folks. Sorry, I’ve just got no more room!”
That’s the honest truth. I was about ready to pass out from exhaustion. But just as I had that thought, I heard another knock at the door. Great, another guest!? There simply wasn’t room.
To be perfectly honest I grumbled all the way as I made my way to the door. There, on the other side, was a couple who I didn’t recognize. The man, who introduced himself as Joseph, pointed to his wife on their donkey and talked so fast I could barely understand him. He was down from Nazareth, I think he said and he just wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.
He’d started to tell me about his “little Mary.” Well, when I saw Mary she was anything but little, if you know what I mean. She was just about as pregnant as a woman can get. While Joseph was pleading, I saw her grab her stomach in pain, and I knew it wouldn’t be long.
I knew immediately that this woman was in need of help now. But where could I put them? I simply didn’t have a single bed to spare and I couldn’t just ask some of my high-paying customers to give up their rooms for this poor couple that just came wandering in. What would they write in their Google review? Surely that would keep me from getting five stars.
I wanted to help, truly I did. But the best I could do was apologize and point them to the barn. Sometimes some of my shepherd friends would take breaks there, while tending their flocks. I knew it wasn’t much, but at least it would allow them to rest, unbothered, until they could find a better solution.
Yes, the barn would just have to do. As I led them and their donkey out back, Joseph said, “We are mighty grateful, sir.”
As I made my way back to bed, I was overwhelmed with concern for the young couple. And yet just as I was about to fall asleep, a peace came over me that I had never felt before. It felt like love and joy and excitement all rolled into one. It was the strangest feeling. I knew I needed to go back out to the barn.
By the time I got back, Joseph had his “little Mary” settled on some soft clean hay. He was wiping the perspiration off her brow, and was speaking softly to her as she fought the waves of pain.
I waited outside in the barn and watched for what seemed like hours. Well, all of a sudden, I heard a little cry. She wrapped the baby up in some swaddling bands of cloth. And I tell you what, it was the cutest little thing, you ever did see.
Well, then Joseph goes over to Mary and gives her a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. The lantern was almost out, the cattle were lowing softly, and baby Jesus was asleep in His mother’s arms. That’s how I left them.
But by the time I got back to the inn and was finally ready get under the warm covers, I heard some murmuring out by the barn.
I’d better check, I told myself. And when I peeped out, I saw shepherds, raggedy, smelly old shepherds kneeling down on the filthy barn floor as if they were praying. They just knelt there with their heads bowed, some with tears streaming down their faces.
I forced myself all the way back out to the barn. I was almost ready to run those lowlife shepherds off, when Joseph motioned to me with his hand. “It’s okay,” he whispered. “They’ve come to see the Christ-child.”
The Christ-child? The Messiah? That’s when I knelt, too. And watched, and prayed, and listened as the shepherds recounted their story of angels and heavenly glory, telling of a holy baby, wrapped in swaddling bands, lying in a manger.
Like you, from time to time, I hear stories about Jesus. The way I see it He was indeed special. Perhaps God brought that small family to my doorstep as a reminder to me to love others.
But this story doesn’t end in my barn, at least it shouldn’t. It continues each day for each of us. We celebrate and witness to Christ’s birth as we tell others about His love and of the great and wonderful things God has done, and continues to do. We come in excitement, anticipation, and joy to celebrate the gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, your Savior, born for you. Amen.