Anne Dilenschneider tells the following story.
Once, there was a little boy who was so excited one Sunday after practice for the church Christmas play that he practically jumped into the minivan when his mother came to pick him up. When he finally settled into the back seat, his mom called back to him, “So what part did you get that’s making you so excited?”
The boy could hardly contain himself. “I got the part of the hero!”
“The hero?” she asked. “Are you Joseph?”
“Nooooo, Mom!” The look he shot her made it clear that he thought she was truly clueless.
“Are you the lead shepherd just like last year?”
“Nooooo, Mom!” She really didn’t get it.
“Are you going to be a king and wear a crown this year?”
“No Mom! It’s better than that!”
“The Angel Gabriel?”
“Tell me you’re not baby Jesus!”
“Aw, Mom. I told you I’m the hero of the whole show.”
“Well, who are you?”
“I’m the innkeeper!” the boy announced, grinning from ear to ear. “Without the innkeeper, there wouldn’t have been any place for Jesus to be born!”
Like most households we have a nativity scene as part of our Christmas decorations. Has it ever come to your attention that most nativity scenes have shepherds, wise men, angels, Joseph, Mary and of course the baby Jesus? Have you ever noticed that there’s somebody conspicuous by his absence? Where’s the innkeeper?
Now for all of you astute biblical scholars I realize that the Scripture only insinuates that there was an innkeeper because Mary and Joseph went to the inn and there was no room there. He is never mentioned, only the inn is mentioned. Because of Luke 2:7 I think it’s probably okay to assume that there was some type of innkeeper. I also understand that the concept of an inn is not in any way like our concept of the modern Comfort Inn.
I know this innkeeper is generally portrayed as somebody too busy to come and worship at the feet of the Christ child. Dr. David Jeremiah writes:
“Could it be that the innkeeper missed Christmas, not because he had no room in his inn, but because he had no room for it in his heart? He was preoccupied, distracted, and unaware. We have no reason to think he was angry or belligerent. He was just busy—too busy. He got so engrossed with all the details of his life—taking care of the inn, taking care of his family, dealing with all the pressures—that he couldn’t stop to reflect upon the moment that was at hand”.
Being too busy to have time for Jesus is something that all of us should avoid in our lives, not just innkeepers.
The story about the little guy that thought he had the part of the hero in the Christmas Pageant got me thinking. In one way the little guy is right. Where would Jesus have been born if there was not an innkeeper? Where would Jesus have been born if some ancient entrepreneur in the little town of Bethlehem did not take the risk to open up his house as an inn to those that were coming to the little village. In his vocational call from God the innkeeper did open an area for livestock, a little cave with some type of thatched overhang that offered a little shelter, where Jesus was been born?
If that ancient business owner had not had these resources he would not have been able to offer the refuge to Mary and Joseph and eventually to Jesus, a marginal act of compassion of a residence in a stable. Mary and Joseph could’ve found themselves in the cold with no protection from the elements.
I really don’t know what type of man or maybe even woman that this innkeeper was. All the speculation about the lack of spiritual depth and awareness may be true. But no matter what type of person the innkeeper was I think this year I’m going to go out and try to find a figurine that looks like an ancient innkeeper and include it in our nativity scene. I may not put the innkeeper in among the sheep, goats, shepherds, and the wise men watching Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. I may put that little figurine a little bit off to the side to keep doing what innkeepers do.
This is a quiet reminder of the role Christian business owners play by fulfilling their vocational calling in the building of the Kingdom. I should take time to lift up in prayer my brothers and sisters in Christ who are business owners. Because I think it’s important that my family and I remember if there had not been that ancient entrepreneur there would not have been an inn or a stable to function as the first address for the incarnate son of God, The Creator, The Sovereign Savior of all the world.