24/25 December 2022
Luke 2:(1-7), 8-20
Sunday Cycle of Prayer
The Diocese of Okinawa – The Nippon Sei Ko Kai
The Anglican Church of Melanesia
St. Andrew’s Church, Fort Pierce
St. Simon the Cyrenian Church, Fort Pierce
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Long ago… in December 1966 and far away… in a Midwestern church
the Annual Christmas Pageant preparation was underway….
One boy, Wally Purling, desperately wanted to be a shepherd, but Miss Lumbard,
the Pageant Director, chose him to be the Innkeeper. Afterall Miss Lumbard
thought Wally, who was tall for his age, would be more commanding when he
refused Joseph’s request for shelter and Wally, who was not the brightest child in
the Sunday School, would have fewer lines to learn! As the pageant began Wally
was so fascinated by the story he almost wandered on stage before his cue! But,
when Joseph appeared tenderly guiding Mary to the Inn’s gate Wally stood
faithfully waiting. “What do you want?” Wally asked, swinging the gate open
brusquely. “We seek lodging, Sir,” said Joseph. “Well seek it elsewhere this inn is
full.” “But Sir, we have asked everywhere in vain. We have traveled so far, we
are weary and my wife, Mary, is heavy with child. She needs a place to rest surely
you have small corner for us?” “There is no room in this inn for you,” Wally
replied sternly. “But Sir,” Joseph pleaded, “my wife is so very tired.” As he truly
gazed upon the poor exhausted couple Wally eased his stiff stance, bent forward
and looked directly in both Mary and Joseph’s eyes.
A long, uncomfortable silence followed broken only by the prompter behind the
curtain whispering loudly to Wally “NO… Be gone.” Almost automatically,
Wally repeated “No… be gone.” As Wally, the Innkeeper, stood there watching
Joseph and Mary turn around slowly and sadly his choice to turn them away and
the situation’s heavy truth pulled on his heart strings. As he truly took time to see
and to draw near to them his eyes suddenly filled with tears and Wally went off
“Joseph, Mary… please come back you can have my room." (Guideposts, Trouble at the Inn…)
Tonight/this morning and actually everyday you and I face the same decision
Wally Purling did over and over again. When Christ comes into our lives to be
born anew will we lock the doors of our hearts tightly, eliminating space or will we
open the doors of our hearts, sometimes slowly to take time to see who really is
there and sometimes enthusiastically realizing when it is Jesus?
God who draws near to us in the humble incarnation of Christ our Lord invites us
to draw near to God welcoming Christ to be born in new rooms of our hearts
encouraging us to embrace the true meaning of Christmas. Christ’s hope, peace,
joy, and love.
In Bethlehem this very night there is no room at the Inn the doors and the people’s
hearts are slammed shut to a poor pregnant young Jewish girl in labor and her
husband who is from that very tribe, family, and town!
The Inn in Luke’s Gospel is not what you and I might imagine it a modern day
Motel-6 or even Holiday Inn. The word inn or Katalumati in Greek could be
translated to mean Khan, a large square building with a strong central gate and
stalls all around the perimeter for families and their livestock and belongings built
for travelers in caravans and Inn or Katalumati could also translate into
“guestroom” a room built above the manager where travelers could sleep and
monitor their livestock.
We do not know for certain which INN and by whom Mary and Joseph were
turned away but there is the possibility that their own family who wanted to remain
comfortable in their own spaces or were ashamed of Mary’s pregnancy out of
wedlock were the culprits.
When are WE at risk of becoming the culprits those who turn Jesus away and leave
him out of our hearts in the cold peripheries of our own lives? First of all, we are
at risk of becoming the culprits when just like the Wally the Innkeeper in
Bethlehem before his heart was transformed we become too preoccupied with our
lives, the busyness of this season which begins the day after Halloween, to make
room for Jesus. With all the societal expectations the buying and wrapping, the
cooking and baking, the decorating and partying it seems at times as there isn’t any
time or room for Jesus.
There are so many demands but the problem isn’t that we don’t’ have time for
Jesus the problem is we don’t make Jesus a priority and create some space each
day to pray, draw near to Him and share our lives, to know Him and know OF
A favorite Advent experience for me this year has been taking time to read, reflect,
and share with some of you our reflections about Jesus “The Promised One.”
This simple practice has provided an oasis for me to be with you and with God
accepting God’s invitation to draw near, hearing how God draws near to you,
experiencing Christ’s joy, peace, hope and love in the midst of the Pre-Christmas
chaos. What a simple and powerful practice this has been!!
Secondly we can become the culprits, tending to turn Jesus away because we don’t
expect to see Jesus we get distracted and overlook Him. Our society certainly
pressures us focus outwardly to do more, earn more, and prove we are deserving.
The Innkeeper in Luke’s Gospel perhaps becomes sidetracked absorbed in taking
care of an Inn full of paying customers hoping to turn a big profit not even
reflecting inwardly about how God was blessing him and how God would bless
him in his trials as Bethlehem swarmed with visitors. The Innkeeper perhaps like
Zechariah in the Temple, forgets, as you and I can be prone to do how God assures
the promises Abraham and Jacob and the prophecies of Nathan and Micah will be
fulfilled that Jesus the Savior, would be a Jew, not a Gentile from the tribe of
Judah and the family of David born of a virgin right there in lowly Bethlehem.
We miss seeing Jesus at work in our world, our relationships, and our hearts
because we aren’t intentional about expecting and watching for Him. We see Jesus
all over the place in Christmas Cards, on wrapping paper, and in Nativity scenes
but do we take time to stop, look, listen and ask in the midst of our ordinary lives
"Where is God in the midst of this?"
Thirdly and this is the hardest one for me to admit and grapple with you and I
become culprits and turn Christ away when our pride or fears drive us to judge and
dismiss others just like the Innkeeper and Wally Purling did at first before he really
saw into their eyes!
All of us tend to delineate people and situations into “Thems and Us-es”. Thems
are the Others whom we point our finger at and criticize while having three fingers
pointing back to remind us of our own similar shortcomings.
This Advent, I was convicted of my own prejudices when visiting and praying with
Barbara Marler at Orchid Cove. Suddenly I heard across the curtain, “Ma’am...
Ma’am... will you pray with me too?” Opening the curtain, I found a 50-ish
woman, Pamela, covered in tattoos and with no teeth curled up in the fetal position
on her bed. Initially I hesitated wanting to turn away, to dismiss her but then I
heard a voice in my head, "This could be Jesus Christ!!" and so I turned toward her
and listened to her painful story illness, pain, no one to support her and so we
Later, after quite a few hours of reflection I realized I was initially afraid,
overwhelmed by her helplessness. I felt I had nothing to offer her and yet like with
Wally Purling the Pageant Innkeeper God drew near to me inviting me to open my
ears and eyes to experience God’s presence within me and my heart to be warmed
to see Pamela as another child of God just like me...hurting, hoping, and in need of
The Innkeeper’s behavior in Luke’s Gospel reminds us that God draws near to us
and invites us to create space in our hearts, to expect and anticipate His coming
so that we can receive our Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ who will teach us how
to live as lives as one of us will offer us the cleansing waters of Holy Baptism,
reconciliation with God through his death on the Cross and the gift of eternal
On Christmas Day we are reminded that God’s heart, God’s Inn
has been and is open 24/7, 365 days a year from Alpha to Omega. It is never too
late to accept Gods’ invitation to draw near to God and to draw near to the Christ
child, to welcome God into your heart and be transformed to see the world, your
neighbors, and yourself as God does with love.