The Innkeeper's Problems!

The Innkeeper's Problems!

Luke 2: 1-7

We humans like to have our scapegoats.
We are always looking for someone to blame.
It is convenient to be able to lay upon someone else the burden of guilt that we carry in our own hearts.

We are relieved, when we are able to point a finger of accusation
at someone and ask, why he did not do more for for Christ.

Thomas, one of the disciples, has been a historical scapegoat.
He has been called, "Doubting Thomas," throughout the centuries.
It makes our own lack of faith seem less severe, when we can point blame at a disciple who
walked with Christ.

At Christmas we are reminded of one of the most famous scapegoats.
It is the innkeeper of Bethlehem.

When we do not have time for Christ in our busy and hectic world,
it is a relief for us to be able to point to the innkeeper, and say that we would never be as cruel and godless
as he was that night in Bethlehem.
In reality, the innkeeper has as much need for our sympathy and understanding, as he does
for our criticism and condemnation.
This innkeeper was faced with some real problems.
He had problems coming at him from every direction.
The innkeeper had business problems.

The village was packed beyond its capacity.
Business was booming, and this night could be the most prosperous night in the history of the inn.
People were pouring into Bethlehem because of the law concerning registration in one's hometown.
Joseph and Mary also went to Bethlehem, "Because he was of the house and lineage of David."

The innkeeper could not be expected to be concerned with one family when there were a multitude
of families seeking shelter.
His business was to take care of those who came seeking room and board.
It was not his responsibility to become involved in his patron's personal problems.
It's strange to say that the innkeeper had a business problem when he was having the best business
he had ever had.
Yet, this is precisely his problem!

Goethe said, "Everything in the world can be endured, except continual prosperity."
A flourishing business can bring disaster to a family.
Usually, when people are struggling to make a living they are also building a life.
But when the living comes easy, they often stop worrying about building a life.
When economic and business affairs become the central point around which all of our philosophy
revolves, people become tools to be used.
This is similar to what a famous politician once said,
"I do not know any people; I only know voters."

It is sad when a businessman does not see people as people, but sees them only as money to be made.
We are constantly amazed at people who call themselves Christians, and yet, continue to value
people and service on the monetary standard.
For instance, those that see a helpless accident victim on the side of the road and refuse
to become involved because the state does not have a "Good Samaritan" law to
protect them from lawsuits incurred by helping someone in trouble.

Individual suffering and personal need are not criterions for decisions to help others when
someone does not want to be involved.
"How much is this going to cost me?"
This is usually the basis to decide whether to stop and help someone.
People, who let their business keep them from responding to human need are related to the innkeeper.

Another common error in worldly judgment is to suppose that a person who has a profitable business
is relatively free from worries and enemies.
There is little doubt that the innkeeper in Bethlehem had his share of worries and enemies.

With all these worries about his business, he had no time to concern himself with
the personal problems of others.
Consequently, he had "no room in the inn."
He had no room for the Christ Child who would soon be born.

The innkeeper also had social problems.
We could feel quite sorry for the innkeeper because of his position in the community at this particular time.
Probably, he had never been confronted with major decisions concerning the equitable practice of his business.
He had cared for those of his community and the few travelers, who occasionally found their way to Bethlehem.
He probably had never been involved in many social issues of racial and economical prejudice and preference.
On this night, he found himself overwhelmed with a great number of different ethnic groups which flooded the city.

One of these problems concerned some rather crudely dressed pilgrims from Nazareth.
  • They were quickly recognized by their dialect, dress, and their mannerisms.
  • They were considered as "lower class" Jews.
  • They were not welcomed in the better circles of either Jerusalem or Bethlehem.
    Thirty-three years later, Jesus found the same attitude as He was calling His first disciples.
    Nathaniel asked Philip, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" (John 1: 46)

    It is not the easiest thing in the world to be fair with everyone when it may hurt your reputation
    or identify you with an undesirable element.
    It is true that a person has to watch out for himself and for his personal interest as he conducts his business.
    It is also true that a Christian's first concern should be to follow Christ and act and react as Christ would,
    and to relegate self to second place where others are concerned.

    It would be much simpler, if we could live in an isolated world, and let every person take care of his own problems.
    This is absolutely impossible in the world in which we live.
    Socially speaking, and we need each other.
  • My neighbor's hunger must be my hunger.
  • My neighbor's need for work must also be my concern.
    My far-away neighbor from Nazareth must find lodging for his family when he needs it,
    and I must also strive to help him find that lodging.

    The innkeeper also had religious problems.
    The innkeeper did not make time for religion.
  • He was too busy running his business.
  • He was too busy attempting to maintain some sort of social equilibrium.

    Since Mary and Joseph were quiet and unassuming, we are prone to believe that they did not try
    to force the innkeeper to give them a room by insisting that the child that was about to be born
    was the long-awaited Messiah.
    However, if the innkeeper had been a faithful student of the Scriptures, and had been aware
    of the prophecies of God, he would have been on the lookout for any sign of the fulfillment
    of the promise of the Messiah.
    Somehow, we find it difficult to believe that he would have made room for the holy family
    had he been told frankly and without question that they were the expectant parents of the Christ.

    In the first place, the innkeeper would not have been expecting the King of kings to come
    from lowly Nazareth upon such a common occasion.
    His concept of religion was wrapped up in the long priestly robes of the temple, and the meaningless
    repetition of professional prayers and the extortionate demands for sacrifices and offerings.
    He expected the Messiah to come riding into town in the splendor of royalty and in the display
    of temple religion.

    Too often, this is our problem.
    We find it inconceivable that God could really work without our man-made altars, programs,
    and organizations.
    While he is not essential for God to have poverty with which to work, neither is it essential for Him
    to have wealth and prestige.

    The presence or absence of money is of no consequence to the presence and power of God,
    if a person is truly committed to seeking and serving the Messiah when He comes, and regardless of how He comes, and regardless of what He demands.
    Jesus came into this world to get nothing, but to give everything!

    No demands were made for a royal physician to attend His birth or for a palace cradle
    to support His infant body.
    There is not a registered complaint about the lack of facilities or service at the inn from Mary or Joseph.
    However, it does seem that the innkeeper could have forgotten his own personal problems
    long enough to extend courtesy, hospitality and kindness to these people who needed them
    in their desperate hour.

    We must not imply that the innkeeper was mean or hostile, for no hostility is evident in the Scriptures.
    The truth of the matter is that the inn was already occupied.
    That is the problem!
    Nobody was mad or upset at Mary or Joseph.
    No one showed animosity toward a newborn baby.
    They simply didn't have room for them.

    This is exactly the situation that Christ finds today when He tries to occupy our hearts, our homes,
    our schedules, our business, and our pleasures.
    Most people do not have animosity toward Jesus; they simply have no room for Him!

    Do you have room for Jesus in your heart?
    Receive Jesus now in your heart as your personal Saviour!
    Open your heart and make room for Jesus!

    Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White