Probably one of my favorite people in the Christmas story wasn’t even mentioned. They were more implied than they were identified.
Its the innkeeper. That mysteriously, almost mythical creature who gets an indirect passing glance in the Christmas story. (Read Luke 2:7, but don’t blink or you’ll miss it.)
There is strong evidence that the “inn” was not an “inn” at all as we imagine it, but rather a “guest room”. Be that as it may, I like to imagine the chat that went on between Joseph and this shadowy “innkeeper”.
Joseph steps into the building, up to the counter, and rings the “ring bell for service” bell.
The innkeeper emerges from a back room with just a hint of egg salad perched on the corner of his mouth.
Innkeeper: “Can I help you?”
Joseph: “Yeah, I’d like to get a room if you have any.”
Innkeeper: “Sure thing. I got plenty of room. Thankfully I expanded in preparation for the crowds I knew the census would bring to town.”
Joseph: “Okay, great. My wife and I have been traveling all day and we’re dead on our feet. Ugh. We’re exhausted and those beds are going to feel so good. And the fact that she’s pregnant doesn’t help—”
Innkeeper (interrupting): “Wait. What? Did you say she’s….pregnant?”
Joseph: “Yeah, so you might hear some blood-curdling screams coming from our room tonight. Don’t be alarmed. She’s just in labor and going to deliver a baby at any time. It’s fine though. I mean, the kid’s not mine but an angel told me who’s it is.”
Innkeeper: “You know what? Let me just check the computer again real quick… *clickclick-clickityclick*…. oh, you know what? I made a mistake. Turns out we DON’T have any rooms. Sorry.”
Joseph: “So, you don’t have any room for us?”
Innkeeper: “Nope. Sorry. Next in line, please!”
Joseph: “Seriously, dude? Nothing? I got a very pregnant woman here and just like that you’re suddenly out of rooms?”
Innkeeper: “Yep. No room. You know what? There’s probably a crevice or a cave somewhere nearby. If you can shoo out the animals, you can probably make it work.”
Joseph: “That’s cold, dude.”
We treat Christmas like we treat a parade. We find our spot on the curb, we may even set up a chair to make ourselves as comfortable as possible, we wave at Jesus around Dec. 24th and 25th, and on the 26th we fold up our chair and head back to normal life.
And as we do, we are all innkeepers. We’re nondescript, non-committed bystanders who don’t have the time, space, energy, or interest in making room.
Now I know the whole humble stable thing was part of the plan, but each Christmas I can’t help but look at the clutteredness of my own heart and take stock of what I’ve allowed to take up time, space, and energy and in doing so crowding out the baby who’s birth is the centerpiece of time, space, and eternity.
Christmas is a good opportunity to take a look at the innkeeper and see if there are any remnants of that person lurking in my own heart.