Luke 2:7 – And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (NRSV)
One Sunday after church, when I was about four years old, my older brothers and sisters were "helping" me to assemble the family's cardboard manger scene. My mother, in the kitchen making lunch, suddenly heard a tremendous uproar, and came to see what was wrong. I was in tears because my siblings had placed the cardboard fence around the cardboard stable. In vain they tried to convince me that it was needed to keep the cardboard animals from escaping, just as the fence at the back of our yard kept the neighbour's Holsteins in their pasture. I kept repeating, over and over, through my sobs, "But daddy said there was no fence!"
Finally, my mother realized that I was partly telling the truth. My father's sermon that morning had dealt with the innkeeper, and dad had repeated over and over the sentence, "There was no offence on the part of the innkeeper". To a country boy, who didn't know the word "offence" but certainly knew about fences, the message was clear: there was no fence around the Bethlehem stable.
I don't remember what my father said in his sermon that day, but I often think about that phrase. I think it can teach me a great deal. The innkeeper had no choice but to turn Mary and Joseph away. If there had been any room at all, I'm sure the innkeeper would have been happy to earn some more money by letting Mary and Joseph in. The innkeeper was not responsible for the situation that led to all the sleeping space in Bethlehem that night being full.
Christmas is such a busy time: there are presents to buy, parties to go to, cookies to bake, and decorations to put up. When Mary and Joseph arrive at our door to see if we have any room for the birth of the Christ-child, what will we say? Do we have the time and energy in this season of the year to spend with Jesus, or will we point toward the garage? The innkeeper had an excuse; we do not. If our lives are too full to receive Jesus, it is no one's fault but our own.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we know that all too often we are just too busy to take time out for you. Forgive us, and help us to make time in our lives for those things that truly matter. Amen.