No Room at the Inn
No Room at the Inn
We find ourselves once more at Christmas Eve, eagerly awaiting the expectant birth of our saviour, Jesus Christ.
But what does it mean to await and welcome a child when there is no room? How does the message of Christmas inform our lives? John’s gospel proclaims that the world did not recognize or receive Jesus when he came.
Given the circumstances many find themselves in today, are we any different?
Scripture: Luke 2: 1-20
No Room at the Inn
Once in royal David’s city stood a lowly cattle shed, where a mother laid her baby in a manger for his bed: Mary was that mother mild, Jesus Christ her little child. – Once in royal David’s city v.1
It was about mid-November when the family and I found ourselves up in Cold Springs for the Bethlehem Walk. I remember it being a cold night with snow on the ground. We followed in the steps of Mary and Joseph and eventually made it to Bethlehem. We knocked on the door of the inn.
It was opened by a gruff looking Innkeeper. When we asked for a room, we were told that there were none available. As the Innkeeper explained that we could rest in the barn a thought came unbidden into my mind.
What if there was room at the inn, but the Innkeeper wanted a better class of customer?
Think about it. Mary and Joseph are a young couple, expecting their first child. They don’t have much money. There is a census on, people are travelling, there is money to be made. Do you rent your last room out to the young pregnant couple who probably can’t afford to pay or do you wait for someone with a little more coin?
Now the word inn that we find in scripture is probably better translated as guest room. Either still implying an inn or some sort of paid lodging or the guest room in a home. Either way the young pregnant couple is removed from polite company and shunned. Their experience is devalued.
We assign value to everything. Your time and your skill set are given a value, which your employer pays. You then take what you’ve received and use it to purchase things. Those things have a value assigned to them. We all gather and disperse currency based on how we assign value to things. Whether those are objects or how we spend our time.
I hope I’ve accumulated enough currency with you to share a Christmas Eve sermon which isn’t what you’re expecting, but which I hope you need.
It would not surprise me in the least to learn that the innkeeper made a judgement call and figured he could make more money from another customer than what Mary and Joseph could pay.
No room at the inn. I feel that this is the sign that countries across the globe are currently flashing. “No room.”
Our community of Cobourg, this church is part of a refugee sponsorship program. Six of seven planned families have been resettled into Cobourg because of our and other churches efforts. And this is only the families we have been directly responsible for. Other churches, other organizations have been involved. This community has been involved in helping people resettle and start a better life. We’ve said there is room. But across the globe and in parts of Canada the chorus has gone up, “There is no room, we don’t want you.”
Migrants have been fleeing Africa for years. Making the perilous journey north across the Mediterranean Sea towards Italy. The upheaval and conflict in the Middle East, most recently in Syria, has uprooted countless individuals and they have fled west towards the believed safety of Europe. Some have been welcomed and others have not. There are walls and fences which have been built in Eastern Europe to stop the flow of refugees into Europe.
Most recently we have been aware of a migrant caravan in Central America which arrived at the US/Mexico border. We know the response. It has been to declare that there is no room. And families have been torn apart, children detained in cages. Two weeks ago we learned that Jakelin Caal, a seven year old girl from Guatemala, died while in US custody. I won’t speculate about how that happened, it’s not fair to do so. However, it did happen and we do need to ask why and how it happened.
You may be sitting there thinking, why would you travel so far with a seven year old girl. Such a journey would be perilous. You would be right, but then think about what would motivate you to make such a decision? What would drive you from your home, for what you hope would be safety?
At some point over the next week Google the Guatemala City Dump or the current political situation in Guatemala or Honduras. I’d run.
What becomes apparent is that when Mary and Joseph most needed someone to welcome them and provide room, they were told no. There is no room.
It’s a message that many of the poorest and disadvantaged people are hearing today. And make no mistake, the countries of the North Atlantic are the innkeeper.
Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask you to stay close by me forever, and love me, I pray. Bless all the dear children in your tender care, and fit us for heaven to live with you there. – Away in a manger v.3
What is the task of the Christian?
Love God and love your neighbour as yourself. These are the two greatest commandments.
And who is my neighbour?
The person beside you. In the pew ahead and behind you. Across the aisle. The people outside these doors, all of them. Every single one of them. Even the ones you are afraid of, the ones you don’t understand. The rich and poor, the healthy and the sick.
The task of the Christian is to feed five thousand when there is only enough food to feed five. To heal and minister to people on your day off, even when it is personally inconvenient to do so.
To love with the same unconditional love that we have received.
We look to these candles, which we have lit over successive weeks. Hope, peace, joy and love.
Hope for a better future, the hope that we can live in peace.
Peace for planet ravaged by war. Peace for people decimated by conflict. Peace for our souls. Peace so that we can live in joy.
Joy so that we can laugh freely and easily, without guilt. Joy for lives transformed and joy for the outpouring of love.
Love for our families and friends. Love for God and for our neighbour.
Hope, peace, joy and love all these things, these ideals and feelings we wrap up and we place with great expectation in the center candle. All these things we place in Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, the Prince of Peace, God’s gift to us.
Jesus Christ who parents heard the message no, there is no room for you. Jesus Christ asks us to make room.
Jesus Christ whose first guests were shepherds, then magi from a distant land. Jesus Christ whose parents were forced to flee when he was a child under the night sky to a distant land, for fear that he would be killed.
I wonder as I wander, out under the sky, how Jesus the Saviour did come for to die for poor ordinary people like you and like I. – I wonder as I wander v.1
The message of Christmas is that God has a gift for you. That gift is Jesus Christ, in whom we are all made new. That no matter how often he was rejected, whether as an infant or an adult. That no matter how often we turned from him, how often our hearts have been hardened God returns to us time and again and says, “I have a gift for you.”
That gift is Jesus Christ, the Living Word. The one who brings light into the world.
In Titus we read, For God has revealed his grace for the salvation of all people. That grace instructs us to give up ungodly living and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this world, as we wait for the blessed Day we hope for, when the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ will appear. He gave himself for us, to rescue us from all wickedness and to make us a pure people who belong to him alone and are eager to do good. – Titus 2:11-14
God’s gift to us is grace, found in the person of Jesus Christ. A gift we re-open every year at this time. Every year at this time we see acts of kindness, outpourings of gratitude, hospitality beyond measure by a people who are eager to do good.
How do we do that, we find it in the words to our doxology today.
What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; yet what I can I give him – give my heart. – In the bleak mid-winter v.4
We find it in the words of Howard Thurman’s poem, The Mood of Christmas.
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.
Friends, as a people eager to do good we this is the age-old story that we are called to tell. This is the message which we are to proclaim. That Jesus Christ has come, representing the hope, peace, joy and love. This is our reminder that this light, the light of Christ will not go out. A reminder that we are called to do good, not just on this day but on all days.
That the one who was constantly told no:
No you can’t teach on the Sabbath;
No you can’t heal on the Sabbath;
No you aren’t King of the Jews;
No you aren’t the Messiah.
The one who was constantly told no, has unconditionally said yes to you. This is God’s gift received by us in the form of Jesus Christ, a reminder that there is room for all.
Friends, the world has suffered long;
Over two thousand years of wrong.
But we, through din of war, hear not the words which they bring;
But I implore you take up the song, which now the angels sing.
God’s gift is waiting for you. Take up the light, make room in your hearts as a people eager to do good! Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.