On the night before Christmas Eve I am sitting by the fire with a cup of hot apple cider listening to Silent Night while the rest of the house sleeps soundly. I really do love Christmas.
Because of life’s unexpected circumstances in the last month, those are not words I have spoken until now. I’ve been a lot more somber this Christmas. My greatest comfort has come from reflecting on the delayed but promised hope that underlies the Christmas story. However, I don’t want the season to pass without celebrating the joy in the story as well. That’s the whole reason I look forward to Christmas each year!
As I’ve focused more on the light instead of the darkness, God keeps directing my attention to a particular character in the story: the innkeeper. He only gets one line in Luke 2:7,”…because there was no place for them in the inn.” In fact, the innkeeper doesn’t even get mentioned. Just his inn.
What fascinates me about this character is his role in displaying God’s abundant grace. Mary came to the innkeeper looking for a room to birth the SON OF GOD, but the innkeeper stuck her in a manger. Aside from the fact that this was a callous way to treat a woman in labor, we can’t miss the fact that she was giving birth to God. The innkeeper stuck God in a barn.
However, it’s important to remember that he could have turned her away altogether. He didn’t have to offer the manger. He could have shut the door and forgotten about the whole thing. So while he wasn’t exceedingly generous, he did offer what he had left.
And God used that tiny offering as part of the greatest story ever told.
The innkeeper offered very little, but God still used his offering. In fact, the innkeeper experienced great blessing as a direct result of the little he provided: he got to participate in one of the greatest miracles the world has ever seen! While we don’t know what happened to him, and we don’t know whether he became a disciple of Christ, we do know that the innkeeper’s meager manger became the site of God’s good and perfect plan.
Now before we go romanticizing the innkeeper, there is a significant contrast between the innkeeper’s offering and Mary’s. Mary offered her greatest possession, her own body. The innkeeper, on the other hand offered what he had leftover. There is a pretty wide spectrum of generosity between Mary and the innkeeper.
I rank closer to the innkeeper. And that’s what leads me to rejoice. Often I’m an innkeeper kind of Christian. I give my leftovers instead of my greatest possessions. But in spite of my flawed efforts and unfaithful heart, God still uses me mightily! He is gracious and slow to anger and abounding in love. I offer him a manger instead of a room, but He still works miracles through it.
That doesn’t mean that I’m content to be an innkeeper. The innkeeper may have been blessed, but Mary was blessed so much more. She offered her body to be used, so she experienced unparalleled intimacy and closeness with God. The innkeeper exited the story almost immediately, but Mary got to play an integral part in God’s plan. In the Christmas story, I want to be Mary, not the innkeeper.
This contrast teaches us one glorious lesson: The Christian life is driven by blessing, not guilt. When we inevitably fail, God does not smite us or shame us. On the contrary, He uses whatever we give. Don’t let your short-comings blind you to the goodness and faithfulness of God in your small sacrifices. But while guilt must not spur us to greater faithfulness, the promise of greater blessing should. The more we pursue God the more we draw near to His heart, the source and location of perfect joy and gladness. This Christmas I rejoice in God’s faithfulness to me in spite of my meager offerings, but I also pray for the diligence and desire to live like a Mary, and not an innkeeper.