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There’s Room Enough at the Inn – December 19, 2010

In a moment, we are going to hear a story. It is an old, familiar story, that our children are going to tell to us. They’ve been working hard on it, I’m looking forward to it. I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises. But I do want to comment, just a bit, on one small part of that story, before we get to enjoy the whole thing, together.

You know that in this story, there is a married couple, in this case, a man, and a woman, and that that woman is pregnant. She is almost ready to give birth to her first child. She and her husband are travelling, they are away from home, and it is late in the evening. In the Gospel of Luke, from which this part of the story comes, it says that after the child was delivered, his mother laid him in a manger, “for there was no room for them at the inn.“

We tell stories to each other, so that we might learn from them. So as we listen to this story, I invite you to imagine all of those countless unnamed, unseen, unknown people at the inn. For it must have been very full indeed, if that travelling couple had to be turned away. Full almost to bursting, with stacks of people crowded into beds, sleeping on tables and upright in chairs, spilling onto the floor so there was no way to walk across a room without stepping on someone. If the inn had been at least that full, we might honestly say that there really was no room for two more poor souls, even if one of them was just about to give birth to a third.

Imagine what a night it would have been for the innkeeper!

Traveler after traveler, weary wanderer after tired vagabond, each of them knocking on his door, one after the other, looking for somewhere safe and warm to spend the night. Ever since sunset they have been coming, and kept coming; he has long since stopped mentioning or even thinking of money. There is a crisis of homelessness in Bethlehem tonight and this is no time to think of selfish gain or even the basic costs of running a public rooming house. The night is cold, and no one should be left to sleep unsheltered in it. And then, just as he has distributed the last blanket and pillow, two more arrive.

But no – this cannot be the circumstances under which that travelling couple came to the inn. For if they had met that innkeeper, then their child would have been born in a bed at a very crowded boarding house, while its owner slept in the barn. You see we tell stories to each other so that we might learn from them. And in the story we will hear today, the innkeeper has forgotten something that we all need dearly to remember: there’s room enough at the inn. There’s room enough for everyone, so long as those of us who are already inside are willing to surrender a little bit of our comfort in order to make a place for wanderers in need of rest.


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