Wednesday, December 25, 2013

How's Your Inn?

Once, a Catholic school was putting on their annual Christmas pageant. It had everything that you all remember from those you’ve seen before: shepherds, angels, sheep, camels, cows, Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, wise men and an innkeeper. The boy who played the innkeeper was a shy little fellow, and really would have preferred to be a sheep; but that’s what he ended up with, because he fit the little robes for the part.

The boy who played Joseph was the class “ham.” He was dramatic and seemed destined for the theater. The teacher had told him to stick to the script, but he had a habit of “improvising.” As they approached the night of the performance, they had many rehearsals, practicing songs and getting lines straight. It was going to be the best Christmas show ever!

However, as they approached the scene at the inn, the play ran into a bump. When Mary and Joseph got to the inn and the innkeeper answered the door with the sad news of no vacancy, Joseph went off script.

“No room?!” he bellowed. “What do you mean?” He waved his hands in the air dramatically and said, “We’ve been travelling so far, and you can’t squeeze us in somewhere?!”

The poor, shy innkeeper couldn’t take it. He cried, threw open the door and said, “Okay, come on in.” 

“CUT!” the teacher yelled. “Joseph, stick to the script, please. Let’s try that again.”

On take two, Joseph couldn’t help himself again. “No room?! What kind of an innkeeper are you?! We’ve come all the way from Nazareth, and my wife is pregnant – with the son of God, by the way – and you can’t give us a room?!”

Again, the little innkeeper broke down, crying. “Alright, guys! You can have my room!” And he let them in once more.

“CUT!” hollered the teacher. “Joseph, what did I tell you? And Innkeeper, do not let them in, alright? Remember, offer them your stable.”

Take three: at the door of the inn, Joseph knocks and asks for a room for him and his wife. In a quiet voice, the little innkeeper tells him that there is no room, but he has a stable where they can rest and sleep.

“A STABLE?!?!” Joseph shouts. “You’re going to make my poor, tired, pregnant wife sleep with goats and cows?! What’s wrong with you?”

At this, the poor innkeeper can’t take it. He leaves the door open and runs offstage, crying as he goes. The parish priest, who had been sitting in the empty auditorium, followed him and found him sitting on a step. He sat down and said, “What’s the matter, buddy?”

“I’ve ruined Christmas!” he bellowed.

“Oh, I don’t think that’s true,” the priest replied. “Why do you say that?”

“I keep messing up my part, and letting Joseph get into the inn.” He wiped his nose on his sleeve.

“And this ruined Christmas?” the priest asked.

The tears were streaking down his cheeks as he looked at the priest.

“You want to know what I think? I think that if I was Jesus, you are exactly the sort of person who I’d want to answer the door for me. You let Him in when no one else would, and that shows a big heart full of love. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?”

The boy’s sniffling stopped. He wiped his eyes with his hands and looked back at the stage. The teacher was having a “heart-to-heart” with Joseph, and a few of the shepherds and cows were looking at him.

“You have a play to finish, pal,” the priest finally said. “But thank you. Thank you for reminding me what Christmas is really about.”

Here, on this night/day, we encounter something very familiar – the Christmas story. However, it is always something new. Each year, we have new hopes, new sorrows, new strengths, new challenges, new obstacles and new opportunities. Maybe we are encountering all these things in our lives and are waiting to straighten them out so that Jesus can make His home in our hearts and in our lives.

But I want to tell you now that this won’t happen.

Jesus does not wait for you to “get things right” or make everything “perfect” before entering your life. If He did, we’d be waiting forever. If Jesus waited for the “perfect moment,” then there should have been room at that inn, and our manger scenes would look more like a room at the Best Western than a stable.

But that didn’t happen then; and it doesn’t happen now. Friends, this Christmas – and every day, in fact – Jesus comes in spite of the difficulties we face and the obstacles we might put up for Him. Jesus comes into the darkness and gloom to be the great light that shines and brings rejoicing.

We all have our own “inns” – and we are the innkeepers there. Perhaps that inn is packed with people, responsibilities, complainers, struggles, dreams and disappointments. Maybe we feel like there is also no room in our inn as well. However, Joseph, Mary and Jesus are coming to knock anyway. Jesus is being born anyway (maybe that is why He comes as a baby – babies come, whether we are ready or not!).

This Christmas, as we gather here, let’s look at our inns. Is there some room this year for Jesus? Can we open the door like that shy little innkeeper and welcome God’s greatest Gift to the world?

I think we can. And when people encounter us, they will find Him there in all His humility and love.

All we need to do is open the door.

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