When I think about the Christmas story there are a few primary figures that come to mind: Joseph, Mary…JESUS. (Rightly so, who can get over God coming to earth as a baby? I don’t think I’ll ever be able to wrap my mind around that.) In recent years, I’ve even heard special emphasis on shepherds, the wise men, angels, the people of Nazareth, and Herod. Yet, I’ve never heard anyone explore the innkeeper.
Really, why would anyone?
Even Rahab the prostitute did better with hospitality than this guy.
The Bible mentions that “there was no room for [Joseph and Mary] in the inn,” only implying the innkeeper’s existence (Luke 2:7 NIV84). So what was the innkeeper like? Was his heart hardened from waiting for a Messiah that never seemed to come? Was he ashamed of not having a place for this young couple expecting a baby? With so little information in the Bible, the innkeeper could’ve just been tired, grumpy, or poor. He could have even been a Gentile.
I’m not an authority on Bible culture and this didn’t come from extensive research, but as I thought about this not-so-heroic innkeeper I imagined him in a way in which I could identify:
A loud, desperate knock filled the room. It was late, too late for visitors. His wife looked at him wearily and they both went to the door. Two young figures and a donkey stood outside the door. He had seen many tired travelers, but these looked ready to collapse. The young woman—or girl, really, she couldn’t be older than his youngest daughter—was expecting a baby. She looked ready to have it at any moment. The young man looked frantic. The innkeeper’s heart sank. There was no room in the inn. “Please sir,” the young man begged, “anywhere.” The man looked down at his wife. Her eyes filled with tears. They had already given their beds away. The only place left was the manger.
We are officially in the season of giving, the season of celebrating the greatest Gift. The old innkeeper’s gift played a role in this—whether he wanted it to or not. The account wouldn’t be the same without it. Isn’t it true that God uses the gifts we give? Even our old, filthy mangers?