On this Christmas Eve, and on these final few days of Advent, our journey toward the Christ child brings us finally to the inn, to the place where there was no room for the traveling family, though the woman be very pregnant and ready at any time to give birth.
We know that Bethlehem was crowded. We know there were many traveling through and many more who had come to stay. We know that there was not room at the inn for even two more persons, not even two more - and we assume it was only two because we know that Mary and Joseph were poor young lovers. (When presenting Jesus, they brought an offering of birds, which was the poor man's offering. This likely implies that they were not traveling with servants, as some of the wealthier might. They were more likely to be just one unexpected bill away from being servants.)
Yet the innkeeper, in all his compassion, not only found space for them on his grounds, but he prepared them room in his barn.
It's easy to think that Joseph and Mary may have prepared their own room. That they went out to the barn, where they were thankful even for space, and started pulling together bunches of straw and hay to make little beds for themselves, that they started pushing aside troughs and moving animals from one stall to another, just to make a little spot for themselves among the, well, among the animal waste and food and grunting and nesting.
But in a culture of hospitality, and at a time when extra travelers were likely expected, even if not able to be accommodated, and at a time when Mary and Joseph likely did not have bedding in their bags, but were depending upon the provision of the innkeeper, it's very likely that the innkeeper himself, or some of his servants, went out to the barn to do some of the heavy lifting. It's likely that he provided them with an extra set of bed sheets that were not being used in the inn at the time. It's likely that he brought them maybe even a loaf of bread and a cup of drink, as would be the custom of anyone hosting anyone at the time. You've read in the Scriptures about the man who knocked on his neighbor's door looking for flour for bread in the middle of the night when friends stopped by unexpected.
Make no mistake about it - the innkeeper did not point them toward the barn and wish them good luck; he walked them out there and made them room.
It's so easy for us to get lost in Christmas, to have so much going on with our families and our friends and our churches and our trees and presents and cookies that we kind of just want to point Jesus toward a corner and tell Him to make Himself at home. We want Him to be there, but there's not a lot of room for making our Christmas really about Christ. We're full. We're overwhelmed. We're exhausted. And Jesus? Jesus just seems like one more thing to do, like one more person to squeeze into an already-overcrowded inn.
Then, a couple of days after it's all said and done, we find a little manger, and we think to ourselves, good. He made it. He found a place, and He was here all along.
Don't let that be your Christmas.
This year, make room. Prepare Him room. Take the time to be hospitable not just to family and friends, but to Jesus. Take your extra sheets and make Him a bed. Take your extra flour and knead Him a loaf. Take your extra drink and pour Him a cup. The inn may be crowded, but make room for the Christ child...and prepare it for Him. Don't let Him be a relic or an afterthought or a castaway this Christmas.
Because you're busy; I get it. But you're not that busy. You're full, but you're not that full. Take five minutes, ten minutes, twenty minutes, and make room for Jesus this Christmas. You might just find, on an otherwise silent night, that all of a sudden, you hear the faint sound of a newborn baby's cry coming from the barn.
And you might just remember that this is Christmas.