Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Message of the Innkeeper


I am not going to lie. I have struggled immensely this year with finding that ever-elusive Christmas spirit. It is true, 2014 has been a year that has chewed me up and spit me back out. But so have other years. I am poor this year. But I have been poor other years. I am exhausted this year. But I have had two children born in November, so I know I have been exhausted other years. The challenges I have faced this year have been unique. But I have faced challenges in other years. I am not sure what it is with this year, in particular, that has made it so hard for me to feel the Christmas spirit. But it has evaded me completely.

None of the things that typically bring me joy at Christmastime have been able to work their magic on me this year. Not the Christmas music that I usually enjoy so much. Not the smile of pure wonder that my 4-year old had when we first lit up the decorated Christmas tree. Not my ever-growing army of stoic, festive nutcrackers. Not the bright and twinkling lights on the houses around town. Not hot chocolate. Not eggnog. Not the glowing garlands and snowflakes arched over Main Street. Not the pleasure of choosing just the right gift for each of my children that I know they will love. Not even watching my favorite Christmas movies (Although, did I still laugh during Elf? Is there sugar in syrup?? Then yes!) I have truly been this grotesque hybrid of the Grinch, Ebeneezer Scrooge, and Mommy Dearest. It has not been pretty, let me tell you.

I had all but given up and just written this year off as The Year Where My Heart Was THREE Sizes Too Small.

Then, the Sunday before Christmas rolled around, and with just the right sprinkling of "I hate Sundays!" (4 year-old) a dash of "I don't want to wear this STUPID dress!" (10 year-old) and a pinch of "NO! You can't touch my hair!!" (13 year-old) we were on our way to church. I sat smashed between kids and books and snacks and toys on the bench willing myself to somehow concentrate on the true meaning of Christmas and try to find even an ounce of gladness and gratitude in my heart. It didn't happen. The speakers were good. The Christmas hymns beautiful. But I still just wasn't feeling it. It was crowded. I was tired. I just wanted Christmas to hurry up and come so it could hurry up and be over. Then about halfway through the meeting, my 13 year-old leaned over to me and puzzled, "Why don't we know the innkeepers name?" I answered her, "Because he wasn't really that important to the story." She said simply, "Yes he was. He is the one that made room for them."

Oh. My eyes filled with tears as I sat and thought about what she had said. I wasn't the Grinch. I wasn't Scrooge. I wasn't even Mommy Dearest (ok, maybe a little bit Mommy Dearest.) I was the innkeeper. And not the one that had made room. One of the countless ones that had turned the weary travelers away. My inn was full. It was so full of sadness and anxiety and fear and hopelessness and self-doubt that I had not bothered to make room. There was no place in my heart for the Christmas Spirit. Because I had not made room. And that room that the innkeeper made for them, that space in a stable? Was it worthy of them and the child they were bearing? No. Not even close. But they stayed there anyway because he had made a place for them.

It was indeed only a short 4 days before Christmas, not a lot of time left to bask in the glow of the spirit of the season, but you'd better believe I have spent these last few days basking. And glowing. And kicking myself for not doing it sooner.

And remembering that as the travel-worn, distressed Joseph and the pregnant, exhausted Mary went patiently from door to door to door bearing with them the one Gift that was more precious than anything else in the world, they didn't force their way in. They didn't cry and plead and beg until someone opened their door to them.

They waited, until someone made room.

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