Monday, December 24, 2012

Where is Jesus?

Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes,
lying in a manger.


Two weeks ago, we went to a stockholders’ meeting at a local stockyard. The Shriners cooked the meal: melt-in-your-mouth steaks, baked potatoes cooked to perfection, salad, yummy desserts and sweet tea. We enjoyed the food, the conversation with our neighbors, a short devotion, then a business meeting to present and vote on the minutes and the financial accounts for the stockholders. All neat and tidy.

You know how those meetings generally are, don’t you? Fairly boring, other than the food. But on this night the speaker really made an impact on me.

He talked about the birth of Jesus. Specifically about the innkeeper. Did you know that the Bible never actually mentions the innkeeper? The scripture says that baby Jesus was born in a manger because there was no room in the inn. That’s it.

It doesn’t say that the innkeeper turned them away because there were ten other men standing there with money that Joseph didn’t have. It doesn’t say that the innkeeper looked at the poor couple, at their tattered clothes, dusty, dirty feet, smudged faces, greasy lank hair and slammed the door in their faces. It doesn’t say that he saw that they were from Nazareth and deliberately turned them away.

It doesn’t say that the innkeeper saw Joseph and his very expectant wife, stroked his beard, checked the stars and thought, hmmm, I wonder if this could be the Christ Child, and so that scripture can be fulfilled, I must put them in the stable.

Scripture doesn’t mention the innkeeper at all, but he’s been vilified in countless stories, songs, and plays as a heartless man who didn’t care about Mary and Joseph or baby Jesus.

And I don’t get the feeling that Joseph puffed out his chest and insisted that his wife was carrying the Son of God, and that they deserved the best room in the inn. I’m certain Mary didn’t say anything either, because she “kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”

We know the inn was bursting at the seams. Seems like the innkeeper was doing his best to provide some kind of lodging for every one who came to his door. At least he gave them a place to stay. Or what if he didn’t send them to the stable? What if he didn’t even know they were in there? If that’s the case, he would have had every right to throw them out into the streets, but he didn’t. Is it possible that a stable in Bethlehem might have even been as nice as Joseph and Mary’s own home in Nazareth?

So, what do we really know about the innkeeper? How can we get all mad at a man who might not even have known about the baby and certainly didn’t know who this baby was?

It’s entirely possible (even likely) the innkeeper didn’t have an inkling of the events unfolding in his stable that night until the shepherds showed up, and the scripture doesn’t include him or anyone from his household even then. Did the shepherds show up that very night and then leave before daybreak? If so, the exhausted innkeeper was probably asleep in his bed, resting up for another busy day at the inn. Clueless to the events unfolding in his stable.

Regardless of what he knew, how much he knew, and when he knew it, there was a place for Jesus in the innkeeper’s busy, hectic, stress-filled life on Christmas Eve.

We, dear friends, are blessed beyond measure, because we are not clueless. We know the whole story and still ... I wonder….

Where did we put Jesus on this blessed Christmas Eve?

36 comments :

  1. Some interesting thoughts. Thanks for sharing on this special occasion of Christmas Eve.

    Pull up a chair and have a cuppa coffee.

    You think the innkeeper served coffee?

    Helen

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  2. Can't believe it. I am on PST for the moment and I'm still not the first to post. :-)

    I had always heard stories that the innkeeper mig have put them in the stable as that was the best he could do at the time.

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  3. I have been told there were roadside mangers during that time too. The Bible doesn't really say there was a stable. I do like to think that Joseph would have found the best place he could and there are usually mangers in stables so it does follow. What is important is that Jesus was born, and lived and died and rose again and is coming soon.

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  4. Hi Pam:

    This is a very interesting post you’ve written. I had a college class on this subject. The teacher said that Joseph was middle class. He was chosen for Mary because he was an older and established tradesman who could be expected to support a wife and child.

    Also a custom at the time, when rooms were short. was to put the men in one room and they would sleep on the floor. The women would go into another room and do the same. The stable would have offered more privacy and comfort and could well have cost more money than a sleeping space on the floor.

    It seems that writers of the Christmas story couldn’t help but layer in elements to make the story even more heartwarming.

    As to the question, “Where is Jesus?”, I have this to say: “Jesus is everywhere but mostly He’s found in the hearts of men".

    The really troubling question I would ask is this:

    “Where are the Christians?”

    There’s an old bible song that has this line:

    “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”

    Today I’d seek to ask: “Where you there when they took Christmas out of the Christmas Parade? Where you there when they renamed it the Holiday Parade? Where you there when the Christmas Festival was rechristened the old pagan “Winter Festival? Were you there when the office Christmas Party became just “The Party”. Were you there when they took prayer out of schools and away from the start of football games? Were you there when Christian themed artwork was removed from the courthouse? Were you there when they removed the cross honoring veterans from the perch it held for almost a hundred years?"

    We may wonder where Jesus is but if I were Jesus, I would wonder where the Christians are.

    This is the season to remind ourselves to live our faith with passion.

    Merry Christmas.

    Vince

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  5. Last year a dear priest talked about Bethlehem after a conversation with an Islamic man in the Holy Land...

    The Islamic man and Father were surveying the look of Bethlehem, of the hillsides, the buildings, and talking about where Jesus might have been born.

    And the Islamic man pointed out that in their culture, especially then, women would not have sought a public place for a birthing, like a hotel or an inn. That it was much more in keeping with the times to seek a quiet corner, and that the stable/cave was probably a wise choice with so many strangers around.

    Anyone who's gone through labor will understand that a crowd of men in the house is less than desirable. Successful birthing is better with a quiet, peaceful environment.

    And that made me see the manger scene in a different light. That maybe it was a wise choice, to deliver this blessed baby in the peace and quiet of a cave for animals.

    Vince, I'm with you 100%. It's not where is Jesus today? It's are we man enough/woman enough to stand tall for Jesus 24/7/365?

    To only shop where they use the word Christmas...

    To take the time to protest secularizing holy days.

    To take the time to observe holy days all year, even when we're busy, busy humans. To seek God first...

    We have a ways to go... those Christians in those catacombs. The ones tossed to the lions like a reality TV show of their time, sans electric.

    Those are our brave, historic heritage.

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  6. interesting. i heard about the inn keeper not being mentioned last week.
    im listening to the carols from melbourne now.

    this typing one handed is getting hard. The pastor gave me a candle to buen tomorrow to remember mum but am burning it now as mum loved the carols. sorry about errors to hard to correct them all.

    I hope you all have a very blessed Christmas.

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  7. Very thought provoking. Thank you.

    May you all have a blessed Christmas and the Happiest of New Years!

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

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  8. Pam, you're right. The inn keeper isn't mentioned.

    Thanks for challenging us today and Merry Christmas.

    Jackie L.

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  9. Thanks for placing Jesus front and centre for me on this Christmas Eve.

    Merry Christmas!!!!!

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  10. We seem to have found ways to enhance the story (like those wise men showing up when it actually took them until Jesus was a toddler to get there...)

    I think this is because we needed more characters for children's Christmas plays = throw in an innkeeper and his wife if you need to!

    I like to think beyond the story to the fact that a very young girl and the man who loved her were completely alone and dependent on each other and God to get them through this most frightening, difficult, AMAZING night ever.

    Merry Christmas dear friends!

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  11. Thank you for a different way to look at the innkeeper. Perfect for Christmas Eve.

    May we all walk the lighted path this night! Blessings and prayers for you all!

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  12. Ok, so I am going to really rattle your cages. Wasn't Bethlehem, the city of David, the home of the ancestors of Mary and Joseph? Shouldn't there have been any female relatives around to help Mary out in her time of need? Also, I have heard that at the time Bethlehem was a rather small city and there weren't even any inns, that the word "inn" really means "inner room", a place inside a home where guests would stay.

    I think we like to put Mary and Joseph all by themselves, surrounded by barn animals in this stable, because that makes the night much more humble. I would be ok with her having a few woman to support her and deliver Jesus, while Joseph is outside waiting with the men of the village.

    Ok, I know, what's wrong with me??

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  13. Leave it to a storyteller to dissect the Christmas Story, LOL.

    Pam, you make great points and have heightened my awareness of the characters a part of Jesus's birth. I've often wondered when the shepherds and Wise Men showed up. How long did Joseph and Mary stay in Bethlehem? How long did it take check in with the census takers??

    Mighty fine thoughts for this Christmas Eve, my friend. I'll ponder them at work this morning : )

    Merry Christmas, everyone! I pray for a blessed holiday to cover you and your families as we celebrated the greatest birth of all!

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  14. Deep and moving thoughts, Vince.

    I must say I"ve been there for each of those monumental events and my heart broke at each caluclated slash at our country's founding faith.

    God help us all.

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  15. Wow, great comments!

    I'm especially enjoying the various thoughts and traditions of what we've heard and imagined about that night.

    Keep them coming!

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  16. Mary Cline, yes, we wouldn't even have Christmas if Jesus had not died and rose again and is coming soon!

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  17. Pam, what a beautiful post. I have thought about many aspects of the Christmas story, but not this one. I'm so glad you shared the thoughts you did about the inn keeper. And, I've learned a lot in the comments, as well. :) I hadn't thought about the beauty of privacy of a stable for a birth.

    Our God is truly amazing in how He orchestrates things. Merry Christmas everyone!

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  18. Vince, your question is even more compelling than mine.

    Where are the Christians?

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  19. So very thought-provoking. Thanks you, dear Pam - and Merry Christmas!

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  20. Pam,
    amazing post, showing how often we think we know what it says while when we take a second look it's not even there. I feel humbled by the realization how many Bibles I own while lots of Christians worldwide don't have a single one. I try to think of how precious the word of God is to them and how precious it should be to me. Even when they're already in prison for their faith, they take huge risks to smuggle in Bible verses and share those with other prisoners. Inspirational!

    BTW totally love the cover for your January release. Beautiful heroine, very evocative!

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  21. Vince,
    wow, you're so right! Where are we when faith is constantly pushed to the margins of society, should stay - as I have heard people put it - 'behind the front door' meaning that in the privacy of your home you can believe what you want, but don't come out (to work, school, college) with it.

    You remind us that we shouldn't blame others for doing this but search deep inside ourselves to see how and why we let this happen. I like to pray for taking back lost ground, like in a war where the enemy might have gained on you and you're falling back, but you can go forward again and recover what you lost. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

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  22. Jenny,
    praying for you, that your wrist will heal quickly and that you have a blessed Christmas, even though you miss your Mom so much.

    I'm sure nobody minds the typos, just great that you're hanging out with us!

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  23. Everybody,
    have a very merry Christmas!

    I've got to think of that very cute scene in Muppet Christmas Carol where Kermit and the rats are cleaning up the shop to go home for Christmas. Oh, and love the penguins skating outside.

    Hope you all experience the warmth and joy of the season! And as the pastor said it last year: Jesus can be born in Bethlehem a thousand times, but he's gotta be born in your heart! Oh, come, let us adore Him...

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  24. Merry Christmas Eve, everyone!

    Great thoughts for today, Pam.

    Sometimes I think we're guilty of doing to Christ's advent what the Pharisees did to the Law - adding our own wants and desires and bypassing the simplicity of God's word.

    Christ was born. No matter how humble or lofty the place of His birth was, there was no comparison with the glory He left to take our form. But without that sacrifice, we would have no redemption. No salvation. No Christmas.

    And no Easter.

    Can you imagine no Easter?

    Have a blessed Christmas Eve, Seekerville. And while you're out and about in the 'Ville, by sure to stop by the Yankee Belle Cafe for some Christmas Eve cheer!

    http://yankeebellecafe.blogspot.com/

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  25. Fascinating post, Pam--and I'm loving all the comments! All of you have really started me thinking deeper about the birth of Jesus and what it must have been like for Mary and Joseph that night. There's so much of the story we don't know and can only surmise, but imagining the events through the various viewpoints (Joseph's, Mary's, the innkeeper's) gives new perspective.

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  26. I love to think about the Christmas story. It brings so much hope in dark times.

    Vince - Once again, you ask a question that hits at the heart of the problem. We abdicated our responsibilities and are now reaping the consequences.

    On another note:

    A few years ago, I ran across this article. To me, it's a very thought provoking take on where Christ was born. (He might have been born in the very place where lambs were raised for temple sacrifices.)

    http://bible-truth.org/BirthPlaceofJesus.html

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  27. Merry Christmas everyone!

    The innkeeper is so much a part of the story it never occurred to me he isn't actually mentioned. Maybe I should start reading Scripture more carefully.

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  28. I escaped the splint long enough to post. Its Christmas Day. And peaceful here so far. Birds are singing, ok screeching, have my lights on my village till it gets lighter. and pondering the day.

    Praying you all have a blessed Christmas time.

    (find it hard to say merry here. mum hated the word cos in Australia when she was younger merry meant drunk. She grew up with an alcoholic father who often was merry and worse. Many older Aussies and even English struggle with the word Merry. the younger ones dont have the association but I find due to much I try to say Blessed or happy or a word thats appropriate in stead if you are wondering why I didn't use merry.) end of broadcast.

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  29. Such a beautiful and thought provoking blog, plus the comments were interesting! I am thinking a lot about the meaning of Christmas. I believe that Joseph & Mary chose to be in the stable for privacy and comfort. Yes, God led them and they listened.
    My blog this week is Christmas: What Is Its True Meaning? (www.outshineovariancancer.blogspot.com). Our day is a quiet one so I am able to reflect on the very special day that tomorrow is. Thank you for your blog and the reader's comments...wonderful.
    Wishing you all a blessed Christmas.

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  30. Pam, I have been trying to post all day but having connection issues. This is a lovely and thought provoking post. I enjoyed Vince's comments as well. Merry Christmas.

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  31. Even though I planned a full day at home yesterday, hubby wanted to know if I'd ride with him to pick up a bull.

    Of course! So we were on the road for 8 hours of quality family time: Hubby, me, and the bull. lol

    It's raining hard, but we're all safe, healthy and home, so we're very blessed.

    I'm putting the finishing touches on my gifts this morning. My son and DIL will be here in a couple of hours for our small gift exchange, and then we'll all segue over to my MIL's for the "grand finale!" with extended family.

    Blessed Christmas to you all!

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  32. As always, i enjoy Seekerville posts and comments. This one challenges me...what else do i think is in a story when it really isn't? I marvel at how many sermons included the innkeeper turning away Joseph!

    Merry Christmas everyone!

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  33. I try to put Jesus first in my life but sometimes I fall short in that!

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