This post was my Christmas Eve sermon from 2012. I really enjoyed writing it and have written something similar for tonight, The Wise Man’s Tale. If you are in the HRM and are considering taking in a Christmas Eve service I think we have a lovely one starting at 7pm lasting about 45 minutes. We’re at 1240 Old Sackville Rd Middle Sackville NS.
Tonight I would like to tell you a story. It is a story of a man that we don’t know much about, but one who is very familiar to us. He is the inn keeper of Bethlehem. We know him as the man shouting, ‘there is no room in the inn. But tonight I think we ought to try to get to know him a little better. So let’s get to know Larry the innkeeper.
Larry the innkeeper was a fixture in the small town of Bethlehem. His inn was the most popular inn in the entire town. That fact should be in no way cheapened with the knowledge that it was the only inn in the town. Larry took pride in what he did and he wanted to make sure that you enjoyed your Bethlehem visit.
Bethlehem was not what you would call a thriving metropolis. It was what it always had been a shepherd town. But the town does have two things going for it. First it is rather near Jerusalem. Being only 8 or so kilometers away Larry enjoys some business from pilgrims heading to and from Jerusalem. And second Bethlehem was the town that King David grew up in.
Oh sure David came and went well over 700 years ago but he was still a source of local pride. Larry was known for keeping a few David slingshots, small plush lamb dolls, and toy harps in stock to sell to families taking the ‘David tour.’ In fact if you asked, Larry could take you to the very hill that David once as a small boy fought off both a lion and bear.
Once a year a few locals would even act out the boyhood adventures of David, Larry loved that day. One person would dress as up as a lion roaring and growling trying to attack another person dressed up as a lamb. The height of the day is when Larry puts one of his custom made slingshots into the hands of a young boy that gets to defeat the lion and save the day.
Yes the town of David was a point of pride for Larry and all of those who lived in Bethlehem. Until Rome decided the tax they were collecting was a little lacking. Caesar Augustus issued an edict; everyone had to return to their ancestral home to be counted. Now David was known for many things. His defeat of Goliath, his capture of Jerusalem, on and on we could go.
But one of the other things David is known for a fact that tends not to come up on ‘the David tour’ is he had a bit of an eye for the ladies. David had 8 wives and at least 10 concubines which is surely nothing to sneeze at. But Solomon, one of David’s sons took marriage to a whole new level. He had over 300 wives and 700 concubines. Now a lot could be said about this, but one thing is for sure having that many wives meant there were an awful lot of people who could honestly track their family history to Bethlehem.
At first Larry was excited about this edict. Lots of people coming to Bethlehem meant his inn would be full, his dinner would be busy, and oh the slingshots, plush lambs, and toy harps he could sell. This would be a great boon for the little town of Bethlehem.
Soon after the edict was issued Bethlehem was overflowing with people. The number of guests outnumbered the people who really were from Bethlehem. Larry like the rest of the town tried to be a kind and welcoming. Soon the inn was full, and then every house was filled with guests.
Even though the town was full, the people still keep coming. Some of them slept in tents just outside the town, and those that didn’t have tents well they slept in the open air.
This was not the Bethlehem experience that Larry was used to offering. Oh sure his rooms were full, his dinner packed but no one would honestly say they were enjoying their stay. And neither was Larry, he was just so busy. When he wasn’t cooking, cleaning, or collecting payment for his services he was turning people away. Poor Larry never liked the sound of the words, no room at the inn, and he was caring less and less for the harsh tone he began to take every time he said it.
Then it happened, in the middle of the night. Just after Larry had finally managed to get enough done that he felt he could risk a few hours of rest a frantic knock came on the door. Normally Larry would leap out of bed ready to welcome and assist someone even if they arrived in the middle of the night. But tonight, what could he do for anyone tonight. He was tired, soar, and he just wanted to stay in bed. For the first time since he started to run the inn he found himself shouting out the window from his bed, ‘THERE IS NO ROOM IN THE INN!’
But the desperate knocking wouldn’t stop. A man’s voice shouted back; ‘please sir don`t you have any space? We have traveled so far and my wife she is having a baby’. Larry’s good nature out weighted his exhaustion just enough to get him out of bed, and take him down the stairs. When he opened the door, the man standing their staring back at him looked even more tired than he did, and that poor woman, she looked about 10 months pregnant.
Larry didn’t know what to do, he had no rooms, no beds, no blankets, and even his sofa was full! But they couldn’t stay out under the stars. So he offered the family the last space he had, the stable for his animals. He took the family there and gave them some food to eat and went back to bed feeling a little better that he had helped. He even found himself whispering a small prayer for the couple. A barn is no place for a baby to be born. And worse a father being there, and helping during the delivery now that was laughable.
When Larry got back into bed he found it difficult to sleep. The stars seemed so bright, the shepherd’s outside of town sounded like they were having a party with all the singing he could hear and worse still it seemed like that the family had guests coming and going all night.
When he first got out of bed he thought ‘I should check on them, when things slow down a bit’ But the sun rose and the sun set and Larry crawled back into bed forgetting about the couple in the stable. It was a busy time of the year after all, who really has time to stop and slow down to think about a family staying in a stable.
Christmas time is without a doubt a busy time. We all have so much cooking, cleaning, shopping, and wrapping to do. In the mists of that most of us even find some time and energy to do a few good deeds, to help out those in need and to whisper a pray or two. But tonight is almost over, and tomorrow will be a frantic day filled with food, merriment, and cheer that again will end oh so quickly. Everyone here tonight in the midst of their business has found some room for Mary, Joseph and of course Jesus. The question we have to ask is, can I find more or will this time simply pass by in a rush of activity?
The Advent performance our church is doing has the innkeepers wife and her son (played by my son) and the part they played in the birth. It’s pretty exciting to see the story from the different views!