The Innkeeper and the Common Man (Luke 2:1-7)

There are some “bad guys” in the original Christmas story. None worse than Herod of course, who had foul motives based in jealousies and paranoia about a Jewish “king” being born, resulting in the slaughter of innocents in Bethlehem.

Another bad guy assumed to be in the story is the presumed innkeeper – the fellow who had no room in the public boarding house for the travelling couple who were expecting a child at any moment. All he had to give them was a stable – a place that tradition ascribes to be essentially a cave for housing animals.

The story derives from the words of Luke 2:1-7 …

2:1 – In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 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 guest room available for them.

What a horrible person to be so cold-hearted as to stick a mother-to-be and her soon new-born in the smelly stable of animals with hay, straw, and … well … you know what.

And so it is that the innkeeper stands as the “exhibit A” of a person who has no room in life or priorities for truth and the Son of God. The annual Christmas sermon oft ends with the question, “Are you like the cold-hearted innkeeper, having no room in your heart for Jesus?”

Something that happens annually to me at Christmas is the dredging up in my mind of hundreds of Christmas songs I’ve done in churches over the years. The mental jukebox plays tunes that go back to my earliest musical memories – the annual church Christmas cantata, replete with a candlelit sanctuary.

We would process to the song “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”  Taking places in the choir loft, like all good evangelical church choirs of that era, we then presented the latest John Peterson cantata. Being a sort of musical prodigy kid, I was always assigned a solo to sing; and if I wanted to have a happy home and food to eat, I had best submit and sing it out! Those songs echo still through my mind, including one from a program entitled “Night of Miracles,” featuring a song I sang called “No Room.”  Here are the lyrics as I recall them …

No room, only a manager of hay / No room, He is a stranger today / No room, here in His world turned away No room, no room.

No room, here in the hearts of mankind / No room, no cheery welcome could find / No room, surely the world had gone blind / No room, no room.

Angels, in heaven up yonder / Watch with amazement and wonder / To see the Son of the Highest treated so / No room.

But the innkeeper was not alone in his status of not anticipating a coming king to be born in Bethlehem. Certainly there was a Jewish anticipation and hope for a Messiah, though the perception as to what that would look like did not include a baby who would become a king. Rather, it had expectations of political and military stature of a dynamic leader. The only ones who had any expectation of an infant king were the astrologically-oriented magi, who put together the ancient text of Micah 5:2 with a sign in the heavens.

Centuries of silence did not mean that God was not at work or had abandoned his plans for mankind, though most had given up hope and expectation. The Scriptures teach rather that God was exactly on schedule, writing in Galatians 4:4-5 that the coming of Christ was perfectly timed … “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.”

Just because we have not heard from God in some specific way for an extended time does not mean He has forgotten us. He’s not like that professional baseball scout who saw me pitch four shutout innings in college in 1975 and promised he would call me … still waiting for that phone to ring! No, do not believe that God’s silence is equal to God’s inaction or disinterest. And don’t give up trusting and hoping and looking for what God will do in and through you. Stay on course; stay faithful with what you know is the right way to live and serve.

2 Peter 3:3 – Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” …

8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. …

… what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. …

14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.

This entry was posted in First-Person Christmas and tagged by Randy Buchman. Bookmark the permalink.

About Randy Buchman

I live in Western Maryland, and among my too many pursuits and hobbies, I regularly feed multiple hungry blogs. I played college baseball, coached championship cross country teams at Williamsport (MD) High School, and have been a sportswriter for various publications and online venues. My main profession is as the lead pastor of a church in Hagerstown called Tri-State Fellowship. And I'm active in Civil War history and work/serve at Antietam National Battlefield with the Antietam Battlefield Guides organization. Occasionally I sleep.

1 thought on “The Innkeeper and the Common Man (Luke 2:1-7)

  1. PAstor Randy
    This was amazing and had me glued to the pg.

    I guess because Ive never done anything outside of pitying the inn keeper. I mean I always thought wow! He had an opportunity to have the Saviour of the world stay in his house, surrounded by heavens fanfare and he cut himself off at the knees…

    Just like that scout did…

    But it’s great to know in a time and season like this, God hasn’t forgotten us! And He wont. Whether we spend the season with 1 person or 50 people we all have the opportunity to celebrate with Jesus himself and that’s all that matters.

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