There was no room in the inn.
It’s a short, straightforward statement, tucked into the familiar Nativity story. Nestled between the birth of Jesus and the angels proclaiming a Savior, the overcrowded inn isn’t a standout. It simply sets the scene for an account most of us know.
Joseph and Mary arrive in Bethlehem for the census and are turned away from a full inn. In the shelter of a stable, Mary gives birth to the Savior and lays him in a manger. Angels appear to humble shepherds in a nearby pasture, declaring that a Savior, Christ the Lord, is born! Following the angel’s directions, the shepherds rush to see what the Lord has made known to them.
The scene has transformed from a weary young couple, struggling to find space in a crowded city, to the first Christmas, shared with shepherds and angels gathered around.
Yet I wonder, what was it like that night for the innkeeper? We focus so much on what happened in the stable, and rightly so; it changed the world. But what was going on in the overcrowded inn?
I can picture the overworked, understaffed innkeeper answering Joseph’s knock and snapping, “There’s no more room here!” and gesturing to a No Vacancy sign. Perhaps the innkeeper felt some sympathy when she realized that Mary was going into labor; maybe the stable was offered as a gesture of goodwill, since there wasn’t a spare corner anywhere else.
The frazzled innkeeper was without a spare room or a spare moment. There were exhausted, grumpy lodgers crammed into every room, needing beds and food and basins of water. There were fires to build, buckets to carry, rugs to beat, pots to scrub.
There wasn’t time to help this travel-worn, anxious couple, or to offer anything beyond a stable.
Yet somewhere between serving loaves of bread and hauling buckets of water, a miracle was taking place with an audience of barnyard animals and farmhands.
The book of Luke doesn’t mention the inn again after that first statement. There was no room there, so the miracle moved on to another location. Absorbed in serving guests and fetching water, it seems the innkeeper never realized that Living Water had just been poured into the world.
It turns out, Christmas hasn’t changed much since that first Noel.
How often am I too busy serving, running, making, planning, or giving to realize that I’m missing a miracle?
How many times have I lost the opportunity to experience the supernatural because the natural is too urgent?
After all, I have people depending on me; deadlines to meet; commitments to keep. I’m being pulled in every direction; I have too much to do. My schedule is packed and my brain is overstuffed. There’s no room here, but there’s a stable out back.
Is Jesus entering my world through a straw-filled manger while I’m too preoccupied placing orders, scribbling lists, and juggling obligations? Am I running around like the innkeeper rushing for more water; sloshing my frenzy around like an overfilled pail?
What would happen if I looked past my own demands and looked for ways to make room?
What – or who – might walk through my door?
We’re less than a week away from Christmas now. I still have gifts to buy, packages to wrap, food to prepare, and get-togethers to host. Most of us feel like we have less room than ever.
Yet my challenge for the remainder of this year is simply that – make room.
Step aside from some of the chaos so you can see what’s happening in life’s “stables” – in the overlooked, unseen, quiet places… Among the most unlikely people and unimpressive trappings.
When we move from the frantic inn to the humble stable, we might discover a long-awaited miracle, tucked in the hay.