Monday, December 23, 2013

The Innkeeper

This Christmas season, I'm taking some time to think about the Christmas story from the perspective of characters we don't typically give much consideration to. I've spent most of my time so far talking about the shepherds and the wise men, but as the day draws closer, I want to move on to another character: the innkeeper.

Because, quite frankly, my inn is full.

We had family Christmas on Saturday, which brought an extra seven people into my home. Two of them, age 7 and under, are still here and will be for a little while longer. A third is set to join them today. And I think this is true of most of our families around this time of year - someone's inn is always full.

Full, sure, you agree. But there's still be room for one more. We'd make room. We haven't relegated anyone to the barn...yet. (Although if Uncle Larry keeps it up... (I don't have an Uncle Larry.)) Really? Then let me ask you this:

Where's Jesus?

If you're anything like me, and I hate to admit this, He's the one that's hard to find this Christmas. He's the one that you look around your inn, and suddenly, you realize He's nowhere to be seen. You're busy tending to everything and everyone else, and Jesus is the one who can kind of take care of Himself, so you don't worry too much about whether He's okay.

The bacon's disappearing faster than you can fry it. The waffle iron doesn't get a break. This kid wants chocolate milk. That one wants tea. The third has his hands in the cookies. Parents, brothers, friends, family are in various stages of passed out and relaxed all over the furniture. And oh yeah, if you get a minute, the tree needs plugged in, the dog wants to go outside, and the kid who wanted the chocolate milk can't remember where he put it but there's little drops of something on the floor that might lead you to the cup. 

And then there are the presents, the little things that make everyone feel special this Christmas. The little touches that tell everyone they're welcome. Like the innkeeper trying to make this place feel like home, you're trying to create a little home for everyone who left theirs to be in yours - by showing hospitality, by embracing love, and by demonstrating that you know them so truly well. These are the "paying customers." These are the men and women who are invested in your life, and you're doing your best to show gratitude for that by making them as comfortable, and as loved, as possible.

But let me ask you again: where's Jesus?

The answer for most of us is that He's out in the barn. He's making do with what He's got. He's good at that, right? The poor family from Nazareth, who couldn't even afford the proper sacrifice, is comfortable with the animals. They know how to stretch the hay. They know how to embrace things as good enough.

I wonder if the innkeeper thought about them. I wonder if he thought about this expectant mother and weary father crashing next to the cattle. I wonder if he stole a moment to at least bring them some fresh hay, free of livestock spittle and droppings. Free of mold and staleness. I wonder if he took out any extra blankets, if he had any or if he even thought about it. I wonder if he made an extra few strips of bacon in the morning or cooked an extra waffle and walked it out to the barn. I wonder if he even knew what was happening out there.

I wonder about us. Do we know what's happening out there? Do we know that just outside our inns, the promised King is coming into the world? Do we remember He's out there? Do we think about Him at all?

It's too easy for Jesus to get pushed out of our inns, particularly as they start to fill up. It's too easy to focus on our "paying customers," those who have come to put themselves in our homes, who fit into the space we've created. It's too easy to think the house may just not quite be big enough. But there's something special happening this Christmas, and as much as it looks like the lights and the trees, the presents and the presence, the waffles and the bacon and the family time, the most special thing this Christmas is happening in the barn.

And if all these people don't calm down for just one second and let me enjoy one tiny iota of this Christmas season, they're going to make it really easy for me to go out there and join Him for awhile.

I love loving on my family. I love giving good gifts in the holiday season. I love cherishing the time we have together, for it comes not frequently enough. But I love my Lord, too, and it's been too easy for me to lose Him this Christmas. Maybe that's because this year, in particular, I am anxiously waiting for Him. I am aching to hear from Christ right now. And I'm realizing that around the voices even of those I love, it's harder to hear what I need to hear - the voice of the One who purely loves me. My inn is full, and I am overjoyed to have it so. But there's something special happening in the barn, and I don't want to miss that for the world.

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