I hope your Christmas season was as “wonder-full” as mine, filled with the familiar scents, sounds, gifts, cheer, and the timeless story of Jesus’ birth. This year, amidst the joy, a specific aspect of the Nativity story caught my attention—a detail I hadn’t paid much attention to in the past. And now I can’t stop thinking about it!
In the Gospel of Luke, we learn about Mary giving birth to Jesus, and placing him in a manger due to the lack of room at the inn. This single reference lays the foundation for the common assumption that the innkeeper turned them away, prompting Joseph to find a stable for Mary’s delivery.
“…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.” (Luke 2:7 NIV)
There it is! This is the only reference, in the Bible and Christmas story, to the common assumption that a good-hearted innkeeper told them that the Inn was full and directed Joseph to a stable for Mary to give birth to the King of Kings.
At least that’s how I’ve always seen it...
But this year, it wasn’t just about Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. It was also about the response of the Innkeeper. In the past, I didn’t see an innkeeper as anything other than charitably giving Joseph direction to a more important part of the story…the stable. Yet, even with all the guest rooms full, offering his private room would have depicted a kindness and selflessness that we should all embody toward our fellow man.
Hmmm, but now I can’t help but wonder about the innkeeper’s apparent indifference to such a dire situation. Could someone truly be that indifferent, especially in the harsh winter conditions? My focus has always been on the depiction of Jesus born in a stable emphasizing humility and a different kind of kingship.
While interpretations may vary, I now saw the Innkeeper not taking the time to listen to Joseph’s story, and uninterested in their painful circumstances. I picture him agitated at the inconvenience of the knock on his door late at night prompting a blunt response “We’re Full!” This reflection challenges me to consider how often I’ve been like the Innkeeper—either indifferent or self-focused, and if I’m honest, even put out sometimes when confronted with someone in need.
Maybe now that I’m committed to the healing power of living-connected, and considering Jesus’ teachings about connecting with others in their suffering, I am prompted to embrace a more others-focused mindset. The story of the innkeeper becomes a vivid lesson in the first step of Living Connected: being others-focused and available to listen.
In our hectic daily lives, it’s easy to miss the quiet knocks that carry life-changing opportunities. The power we possess in those moments, where a simple act of being available and empathetic can transform someone else’s world, is immense.
In that abrupt dismissal, the innkeeper missed the opportunity to engage with their story. The chance to offer his own space, to make a sacrifice for another’s well-being, slipped away, unnoticed.
How often do we find ourselves in a similar scenario? Not always turning away those in need, but overlooking the significance of truly connecting. We’re caught up in the rush of life, consumed by agendas, and oblivious to the potency of a listening ear, a comforting presence, or a helping hand.
I’m challenged with Jesus saying that He comes and knocks at the door for us to open it (Rev 3:20); and that whatever we do to the least of these, we do for Him (Matt 25:45), or all the other references that I should be living “others focused”! Perhaps this story of the innkeeper that I am wrestling with this year is a vivid revelation of the first step in Living Connected… Be Others-Focused and Available to listen to the story of someone who is hurting and decide to share in their suffering!
Living connected isn’t just about physical proximity; it’s an emotional investment in others. It’s the sacrificial act of setting aside our plans to truly listen, to empathize with someone’s struggles.
As we step into a new year, let’s make it our goal to remember, every day, the Innkeeper in the Christmas story and live more others-focused. To attune our hearts to those around us who are hurting. Let’s be the ones who listen intently to someone’s story, who share in their joys and sorrows, and who extend a helping hand without expecting anything in return.