The Christmas story is full of remarkable events: angels appearing before shepherds, an unprecedented census compelling Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem, and kings from faraway lands traveling by a bright star to bring gifts to a newborn Savior. I believe that is one of the reasons why we love the Christmas story so much. It’s an extraordinary tale of how an extraordinary child came into this world to save us forever. It’s the story that brought us our King.
This year, I am taking time to notice the incredible incidents, people, or circumstances that might not seem so spectacular on the surface, yet created an impact that immeasurably enhances the Christmas story we know and love. Singularly, the innkeeper stands out to me. I can just imagine that Bethlehem would have been busy with people in town to register for the census. The innkeeper meets these strangers: Joseph and a very pregnant Mary, and does not have a suitable place for them to stay.
I would imagine that the innkeeper wanted to give them a nice, comfortable guest room to show them his best hospitality, but he did not have a room to give them. So, all he could do was give them shelter with the animals. From the outside looking in, this may have seemed like meager accommodations for the King of Kings. Baby Jesus would be born in a stable and laid in a manger! But I don’t take the innkeeper’s gesture lightly. He could have turned them away. He could have removed a family from one of his rooms to make space for Joseph and Mary. But he didn’t do any of those things. He simply gave them what he had to give, nothing fancy, nothing extraordinary. Yet in his generosity, he created the backdrop for one of the most famous stories in the Bible.
The innkeeper facilitated a backdrop that added so much more meaning to the Christmas story. The juxtaposition of the Savior, the King of Kings, the Holy Child, being born in a stable among the sheep says something about the entire Gospel story to me: that Jesus fulfilled His mission, but He did not need a palace or throne. He needed simple acts of mercy, kindness, and generosity from people like the innkeeper that gave Joseph and Mary a roof over their heads on Jesus’ first night on Earth.
This Advent season, look for opportunities to show simple acts of generosity to others. What do you have to give? It might not seem like much to you, but it could make a world of difference to those around you.
Beth Armstrong, Director of Adult Discipleship