Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Advent 2016

The Innkeeper

"A Story of the Compassionate Innkeeper"


"And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn."  Luke 2:7


            Over 2,000 years ago, Rachamim lived with his wife Batya in Bethlehem, a village in the Roman province of Judea.  Rachamim owned a small inn.  It was the only one in the village.  The inn was a structure with rooms in the upper level and a space in the lower level for feeding and sheltering animals such as sheep, donkeys, and camels.

            Between 4 and 5 bc, Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus ordered a census.  As a result, Bethlehem was full of people who came to register at their ancestral home.  Rachamim's inn was bursting at the seams.

            During the past several weeks, a teenage girl named Mary had been seen in Bethlehem with an older man named Joseph.  Mary and Joseph were staying with distant relatives.  Joseph had told them that he was a descendant of the House of David.  Mary was pregnant.  Her condition was becoming visible.  Although Joseph claimed that he was Mary's husband, word traveled quickly through Bethlehem that Mary had become pregnant out of wedlock.  The talk in the village increased as Mary's condition became more obvious.

One morning, without any warning, Mary and Joseph's distant relatives told the couple to leave immediately.  They suddenly found themselves without shelter.  Mary and Joseph walked all day asking people to take them in.  They traveled with a donkey to ease some of Mary's burden.  Everywhere they turned, the answer was a resounding, "We have no room for you."  The light of day quickly turned into the darkness of night.  They had not yet tried the local inn because they assumed it was already filled and that they would again be turned away.

            As the darkness deepened, Mary, Joseph, and the donkey were exhausted, hungry, and caked with dirt.  Mary began having labor pains.  As a last resort, the couple approached the inn and asked Rachamim for shelter.

            Rachamim observed a dust-covered, desperate looking couple and a tottery donkey.  He saw that the girl was with child and would be giving birth very soon.  He quickly understood that he was being asked for lodging by the very people who had been gossiped about in the village.  He looked into Mary's eyes and, through her obvious discomfort, he saw innocence, serenity, and strength.  He observed Joseph and saw love and determination.

            Rachamim was deeply moved and felt immense love and compassion.  He could plainly see that the couple had run out of options.  He listened to his heart which told him without question that he must do something to help.  Rachamim informed Mary and Joseph apologetically that there was no place for them in the inn; however, he offered them the space for feeding and sheltering the animals.  He also offered the assistance of his wife in providing food and water and attending Mary's childbirth.

Mary and Joseph were so touched by the compassion expressed by Rachamim that they nodded in assent, for they were without words.  Rachamim quickly summoned Batya to care for the couple.  Batya gladly obliged.

The night was calm and silent.  Rachamim gazed at the sky.  The stars shone brilliantly.  Rachamim felt a wondrous, mysterious sense of profound peace and joy.  With tears of gratitude, he gave thanks to God.

Advent teaches us to be alert and to open our hearts to others just as God opened his heart to us through his gift of the love and redemption of Jesus.  Being alert requires us to be in the present in God's kingdom on earth so that we may allow God to act through us for others no matter who they are.

Rachamim was alert and in the present.  He did not shun Mary and Joseph nor did he close his eyes to their hopeless situation.  He offered them what he had out of the love and compassion that he felt in his heart.


Oh God, help us to be alert and listen to your voice so that we may be loving and compassionate to others.  Help us to be a blessing to your kingdom as shown through the life and teaching of your gift to us, your son Jesus Christ.  Amen.


-- Emily Garrard



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