Seen Around Church: Week of November 26, 2023November 29, 2023
First Sunday of Advent – December 3, 2023 – EveningDecember 3, 2023
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:4-7 KJV
Illustration by Savannah Brown, age 9
Many years ago, my young cousin was sitting at the kitchen table while other family members were cooking and cleaning up. She had recently learned the alphabet song and was now learning to write the alphabet. She had just succeeded in writing “K”, the initial of her last name, and was ready for the next letter. She asked no one in particular, “How do you make an elemeno?” Those sounds do come after K in the alphabet, but not as a single letter. She had to rethink what she thought she knew.
It may be that we might rethink some of our Christmas rituals. I’ve often read B. P. Baker’s poem, “The Innkeeper” at Christmas time.
I only did what you have done a thousand times or more when Joseph came to Bethlehem and knocked upon my door.
I did not turn the Christ away with alibi so deft; like you, I simply gave to him whatever I had left.
I’ve usually read this as an accusation against the innkeeper and the reader. The innkeeper doesn’t make an excuse for not helping, but gives the Christ child only what’s left over, what he has no need for, something he doesn’t value. Reading it again, I wonder if I should rethink its message. We all have obligations to meet with our time and our money and our concern, but usually we don’t use up absolutely all of our stores of money and time. Perhaps the innkeeper went the extra mile and looked for a solution when the obvious answer was, “No room, sorry.” What if I interpret “whatever I have left” as all that I can make available for giving? What if “whatever I have left” is not a worthless scrap, but an opportunity?
I have a personal concern about relatives stuck in the middle of Ukraine’s war that makes me especially aware of those caught up in the wars in Sudan and Israel and Gaza – and who knows where else by the time you are reading this. In a world where we are aware of so many calls for help – from victims of war, the homeless, the hungry, the traumatized, the lonely – I want to throw up my hands and say, “Sorry, I have no more room.” Can this part of the Christmas story encourage me to rethink – to reach deeper, think beyond the obvious? “Gee, the rooms in my inn are full, but you know, the stable has shelter to offer.” There may, indeed, be ways I can give more, do more, care more.
Dear God, open my heart and hands to care and give in ways that are beyond quick, easy answers. Show me ways I haven’t thought of before to reflect your love into this needy, hurting world. Amen.
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