Is There Room in the Inn?

Pastor’s Newsletter Article for December, 2013

A friend tells the story of a Christmas pageant that took place in a small-town Wisconsin church many years ago. The Sunday School Superintendent took the risk of inviting Wally, a sweet boy (but who always seemed to be a step or two behind the others), to play the role of Joseph. “Now, Wally,” she told him, “You only have two lines to remember. When Mary and Joseph come to your door you open it and say: ‘The inn is full. Begone!’ ” Wally worked hard on these lines, finally delivering them perfectly at the dress rehearsal.

The night for the pageant arrived. The church was packed. The story unfolded. Mary and Joseph stood at the door to the inn. Wally opened the door, and looked out to see Mary, Joseph, and a whole sea of faces watching from the congregation. Joseph asked, “Do you have room for us?” Wally froze. Joseph asked again. The superintendent whispered Wally’s lines from her place offstage. Terrified, Wally delivered his lines. Mary and Joseph turned to leave. But overcome by the moment, he then blurted out: “Wait! Wait! Mary, Joseph, please come back. You can have my room!”

The audience burst into laughter. Wally’s face burned. He felt humiliated. When the play ended he rushed toward the back of the church. He couldn’t wait to get out of there. Before he could make it outside, though, the Sunday School Superintendent caught his arm. “I’m... I’m sorry,” he tearfully stammered. “I just got it all wrong!” “No,” she said, with tears in her own eyes, “No: you got it just right, Wally. Just right!”

Wally did get it just right. At least he came much closer than the original innkeeper did. This month the church invites us all to enter into the ancient practice of Advent. In contrast to the hectic pace that society sets at this time of year, it is a season of quiet contemplation; a season of daily devotion and prayer; a season of faithful and thoughtful worship with God’s people; a season of creating space in our lives so that Christ might be born anew among us — so that Christ might come and share a room with us.

As was true for the original innkeeper, there will be much that strives to convince us there isn’t time: greeting cards to select or compose and mail, gifts to purchase and wrap, homes to clean and decorate, school plays to watch and holiday projects to complete, parties and open houses to attend, meals to prepare, stockings to hang by the chimney with care… With so many activities squeezed into our schedules, it can indeed feel as if there is no room left for anything else.

Our tradition encourages us to not give in to the pressure. Holiday celebration, in moderation, can be a blessing during this time of year. But carving out quiet time to spend in the presence of God as we await the arrival of the Christmas celebration is even more important.

Christ is knocking at the door of our lives this Advent season. How will we respond? Like the first century innkeeper, will we protest that there just isn’t enough room? Or like Wally, will we make space for Christ in our hearts and homes?

A blessed Advent Season to you all, Pastor Dave