Be an Innkeeper

by Pastor Heath Howe, Family Ministry

David, Sophie, Eli and I have the pleasure of hosting the Christmas celebrations for my side of the family once again this year. In many ways it makes no sense that we are the hosts. David and I are both busy with our ministries at Christmastime. Not to mention that my family all travel from very warm places to the cold chill of Chicago. Our neighbors have joked, "Don't you all have this backward? Shouldn't the folks who live in the cold go to the warm place instead?" Maybe, but this is our tradition, and I love it.

This past Christmas, as I ponded who I most identified with in the Christmas story, I settled on a character I had not thought much about, the innkeeper. As the story tells us, there was no room available for the Holy Family in the main house, but the inn keeper offered what he did have to make sure they had a safe place for the baby to be born and a warm place to spend his first few days of life.

As I try to carry the generous heart of the innkeeper with me while preparing for my family to celebrate Christmas in my home, I find that I am wanting the same to happen as I move into this new year of 2017. Indeed, the birth of Christ is not only a historical event, it is something we re-member in our hearts each year. The baby is born at the end of our calendar year so that he can be our companion as we move forward into a new year.

None of us can predict what the new year will bring. Still, most of us have lived long enough to know that 2017 will offer experiences that are full of joy, as well as ones that are incredibly challenging for us as individuals and as a community. How nice to know we have Jesus, God with us, stepping into this time with us.

My prayer for all of us this month is that we offer our lives to God daily, with Christ as our companion. In this offering may we allow God to tidy up and straighten the rooms in our hearts that have become cluttered with fixations like greed, fear, anxiety, and resentment. May we also delight in the beautiful places in ourselves we have forgotten, taken for granted, or never seen that God enjoys showing us.

The innkeeper's role in the story is not hard. He did not have to give birth like Mary. He did not have to face possible public humiliation like Joseph. His role wasn't glamourous, either. He did not see angels nor did he bring a special gift from far away. He simply offered what he already had, the barn in the back. God took it and Love was born.

May the same be true for us this year each day. Here, God, take my heart and make it your home.