Ann Weems reminds us in her book Kneeling in Bethlehem:
In each heart lies a Bethlehem
an inn where we must ultimately answer
whether there is room or not.
When we are Bethlehem-bound
we experience our own advent in his.
When we are Bethlehem-bound
we can no longer look the other way
conveniently not seeing stars
not hearing angel voices.
We can no longer excuse ourselves by busily
tending our sheep or our kingdoms.
As we enter this Advent Season, we once again prepare for the coming of our Lord Jesus. As Ann Weems reminds us: we are Bethlehem bound. This journey brings us right into the middle of the Incarnation. It is a journey that leads us to the birth of the Christ Child, Emmanuel – God is with us!
A familiar story of the Son of God born in a manger.
On our journey to Bethlehem we can no longer look the other way. For we will be reminded of each of the characters in the story. These characters will be depicted on Christmas cards that we receive; or carols we hear on the radio; or represented by the decorations we hang upon our trees. But there is one character found in the nativity story that plays upon my heart. The Inn Keeper. And from this personality comes those gnawing words: ”There is no room for you, here!
This inn keeper is the one we often miss in recounting the story. We don’t like him much! He is the one who tells Joseph there is no room for the Holy Family. There is no room in his establishment. But of course there is always room; room somewhere! Any inn keeper worth his salt would want to keep something available for that one person of means or influence, accustomed to the very best who arrives without reservation and yet asks for a room.
The actions of the inn keeper may indeed reflect how the world treats the Christ Child. They too miss the importance of the event and so they miss the golden opportunity to encounter the living Christ. This Inn Keeper seems to be caught up in his day to day circumstances. His life requirements of his business over shadowed his ability to see the importance of the event.
Over the years I have tried to stress the importance of slowing down over the Christmas Season. To take time to reflect on the meaning of the Season. To stop the hectic pace we so often find ourselves. Often leaving little time to reflect and travel to Bethleham.
However, that isn’t the case this year is it? Many of us are stuck at home in isolation due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Confusion and chaos seem to be all around us, not because of us doing the normal Christmas shuffle, but rather our attention to daily news reports and the ever increasing reality of not being able to share Christmas holidays with loved ones.
So I guess this is the question for most of us: how can we take time out to travel that journey to Bethlham this year? As we await a vaccine, maybe this is the year we really do have time to stop, reflect and take in all the story has to offer.
This Inn keeper missed a spectacular event. The first Christmas was far from ideal. Mary and Joseph were forced to make due with a little manger, probably dug into the side of a hill. And yet there is still something spectacular with the surroundings. In many ways just ordinary and yet much more, for the familiar takes on a new look. The barn yard smells, the sheep jostling around, the noise of the crowded inn in the distance, the beauty of the star lit sky. That first Christmas although ordinary in many ways became indeed spectacular.
No matter how many times I hear the story, I’m in awe and wonder of our Lord, who takes the simplest of places, the manger and the stable, and they become to us the backdrop of the wonderful scene of the Nativity .
This year will be a very different Christmas no doubt. But maybe this will be a Christmas like no other as we travel to Bethlehem.
This advent season let us go to Bethlehem and respond ourselves to the question: do you have room for the Christ Child tonight?
May the Blessings of God be with you this Advent and Christmas Season:
Rev. Merv Lanctot
Faith grows in the soil of hope