7. and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Because there was not room for them in the inn!
All this time I was under the impression that the reason Mary and Joseph ended up in the stable was because the inn was full -- that's what we sing in our Christmas carols -- that's what we see in all of the movies about the birth of Christ and in all the nativity plays across the country, even of our own childhood "There is no room -- the inn is full -- you can stay in the stable out back"
But, that's not what Luke says happened here, he doesn't say the inn was full -- he just says that there was no room "for them"
what does that mean? - "For them" - what was it that made the innkeeper turn them away I wonder on this special night?
Tonight we are celebrating the wondrous gift that came from heaven to earth – the birth of Jesus Christ and we do so at a time when the making room for others is a highly contentious issue in the world of politics and for many of us here in West Hendon very close to our own front doors as we see the regeneration of the West Hendon estate gather pace.
Thinking of Front doors reminds me of the presentation last Sunday by our Sunday school on the great I am sayings of Jesus and linking them to the Christmas story - I am the Door – Jn 10.7
In the book of Revelation 3:20, Jesus said, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." I wonder if John the author of the book of Revelation thought back to that time in Bethlehem -I wonder if He thought of the innkeeper as He wrote those words. when Mary and Joseph showed up at the door of the inn and knocked, it remained closed to them.
In Jesus' time here on earth, many doors were closed to Him. He knocked on the door of the synagogue in Nazareth and proclaimed the fulfillment of prophecy, and was thrown out.
He knocked on the doors of the temple and proclaimed His deity, and was crucified .
He knocked on the door of all that He created, the created order and the hearts of everyone created in his image, and He was rejected.
Tonight there are many in our city for whom the door of hospitality, hope and joy is closed to them. While we sleep tonight and as we feast tomorrow there will be those in our own community, city and the countless refugee centers around the world for whom the door is firmly closed to them. but because of the love and generosity of the few that door is for a moment opened and through the crack of that open door the light from the other side will reflect in their eyes and provide a glimmer of hope in their hearts that have become so used to despair.
There are many who will testify as to when Christmas begins, for me it's the Saturday morning before Christmas when we are able to join with Jesus House and offer a Christmas Hamper to those who open the door of their homes wide enough to receive them. This year 68 hampers were given and received in West Hendon.
Returning to the nameless innkeeper who for reasons known only to him, refused to open his door on that night long ago we may choose to speculate why the inn keeper refused to let in Mary and Joseph, and in doing so touch upon the temptations that we suffer from when trying to live up to the example of this child born of Mary.
Was the door closed to them because of their appearance?
because they weren't wearing fine clothes
because the innkeeper thought they were too poor to have the money for a room?
or did he turn them away because he had heard their story? and did he think that Mary had been unfaithful to Joseph?
Was it that he did not want he didn't want that type of person mingling with his righteous guests?
In retelling the Christmas Story year upon year is so that we can, year after year, pledge ourselves to be open, in mind and spirit and strive to accept all who come, the rich and the poor, the saved and the sinner, without judgment or prejudice. This is the good news of Christmas that we see displayed for all the world to see - that the child born of Mary accepts all who come to Him, all who knock on the door and seek His face: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" John 3.16
Amidst all that we could speculate upon, the one thing seems irrefutable is the fact that the Inn Keeper didn’t have an open mind or heart. That he could have opened the door and let Mary and Joseph into the inn from which they were barred.
As we celebrate on Wednesday night,
as we gather in these precious days of Christmas,
as we encounter the wondrous birth of our saviour anew in the dark sacred night
as we kneel before the crib at the Altar and receive into our outstretched hand the bread of life and into our parched throats the wine of the new covenant with the promise of a renewed life, a fulfilled life….
let our prayer be that our hearts, our minds and yes the doors of our homes and our community will be open to those who come to us in their need, and that this will be true not just at Christmas but on every day of the year