Is There Room In Your Inn?
Christmas Sermon | Luke 2:1-20
It seems every family has some hilarious and terrible travel memory in family lore. One such time for me was when I was in middle school, travelling with my parents and my brother for a week trip in the summer to Washington DC and Baltimore. It was a good vacation, but the thing we all remember most is what happened the first night of that trip. We didn’t make it to DC that night. My dad wanted to avoid I95, and we got lost. This was before GPS. We decided to pull off and find a place to stay and finish the drive in the morning. We looked everywhere for somewhere to stay, but everywhere was full.
No vacancy. No vacancy. No vacancy.
We must’ve stopped at a dozen places. We were lost, hours from home, and thought about spending the night in the car. Then we found it. The most run down, scary looking place. Where you could rent a room by the hour and the receptionist stood behind iron bars and plexiglass. The man who checked us in seemed like he couldn’t believe there was a family wanting to stay there.
When we entered our room, we were suspicious that our bed sheets weren’t clean. I remember going over to the receptionist window and asking for some blankets. We had to carry them over ourselves and make our own beds, and we slept on top of the blankets with our clothes on for fearing of what might be in the sheets. The shower was filthy, so we asked them about cleaning it. So the guy came over with a can of Lysol, sprayed it in the shower and looked at my mom and said “OK?” Like he genuinely thought he did a job cleaning the shower. We didn’t ask for anything else.
My dad sat outside in a camping chair watching all the action in the parking lot. And as we settled in for the night, I thought well at least there’s a TV here. So I turned it on and encountered some X-rated material. So we quickly turned off the TV, went to sleep, and made it safely through the night. None of us will ever forget that infamous motel.
Mary and Joseph also understood the inconvenience of not finding an ideal place to stay. Mary and Joseph also wandered desperate to find any place to lay their heads. The Bible tells us there was no room for them in the inn. No vacancy. But apparently there was a barn or stable where they could stay. It seems like a sweet idea, but I imagine it probably smelled, was dirty, and certainly wasn’t the most suitable place to give birth.
And yet, even in the midst of a night of chaos for Mary and Joseph, God’s greatest gift was born. In spite of the fact they couldn’t find a nice place to stay, they did the best they could, and God’s will was accomplished. In the birth of Jesus Christ, God became incarnate, physically born in this world.
And the fact that Jesus was born in such rough surroundings is a significant thing. This may have been God’s intention all along, God’s way of demonstrating that He enters into our messiest situations with the gift of love. And those dirty barn animals reveal that God loves all creation and it’s not just humans God wanted around at the Messiah’s birth, but animals too! Because Jesus is a gift for all creation!
And God reached out to poor shepherds too. Because it’s not just the important people Jesus was born for, but even and especially the poor, the outcast, the forgotten. And God gave a sign to Gentile astrologers, the Magi or Wise Men from Persia, because Jesus’ birth is for everybody not just the descendants of Abraham but the whole wide world. God’s promise to Abraham to bless the whole world through his descendants has come to fruition in Jesus. And so, the company of dirty animals, the poor shepherds, the nobility of a foreign people, and of course the unwed teenage mother and peasant carpenter stepdad—demonstrates the width and breadth of who Jesus came to save.
A quote I really like was said by a man named Neal Maxwell: “Each of us is an innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus.” And I really think that while Christmas is certainly a time to celebrate and enjoy the blessing of the birth of Christ, it is also a time to call us to make room in our hearts for Jesus. A time to recommit ourselves to discipleship. A time to recognize our own heart as an inn where we should make room for Jesus.
There are distractions all around us. Especially this time of year. At a time when we should focus on God’s desire to be born in us, we get distracted by calls to buy more Christmas gifts. We get distracted our obligations and responsibilities. It’s part of the human condition that we don’t always make room for Jesus in the inn of our hearts. But Christmas offers a time for us to recommit to discipleship. Recommit to following the Christ-child and inviting him to be born in us. Like the hymn we’ll sing in a few moments says: “O holy child of Bethlehem descend to us we pray; cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today!”
In the coming days and in the coming year, let us make room for Jesus in our lives. Commit to clearing out space inside us. Commit to removing the obstacles to the Holy Spirit’s movement within us. Commit to live simple and undistracted lives. Where we make time for spiritual practice, time to pray and read scripture, time to worship at church. Recommit to the promises we made at Baptism or our Affirmation of Baptism: to live among God’s faithful people, to hear the Word of God and attend the holy supper, to live a life of faith and prayer, to proclaim Christ through word and deed, to strive for peace and justice in all the earth, and to let our light so shine before others that they see our good works and give glory to God in heaven.
Making space for Jesus in the inn of our hearts is our calling as disciples. First, we receive the gifts of God and then we get to go out and share those gifts with others. The gift of forgiveness and healing. The gift of spiritual wholeness and peace. The gift of God’s grace and love.
And even when we have trouble making space for Jesus, God will always nudge us and gently invite us to go deeper, and remind us of His love. We may not have the bright shining star of Bethlehem that the Magi saw. And we may not have a choir of angels singing to us about the birth of the Messiah. But we do have a God committed to loving us who constantly pursues a deeper relationship with each of us. So let us pay attention to those things in our lives that point us to God. God will provide our own Christmas signposts to direct us on our way. God will shine light to reveal our own path to the manger. Things which inspire curiosity and guide us on our faith journey. Events which help us discern and recommit. Gifts which comfort us and guide us. Signposts which point us to the manger and inspire us to make room for Jesus in the inn of our hearts.
So this Christmas season, let us pay attention to the Christmas signposts in our lives. Let us make room for Jesus in the inn of our hearts. And in this year ahead let us be committed to deepening our relationship with this God who loves us so much. Getting to know God better and inviting the Holy Spirit to transform us and guide us through life. And let us always remember God’s love for us: love incarnated in the baby born in Bethlehem; love that transforms the world.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Pastor Brian, Christmas 2022