NO ROOM AT THE INN (Advent 2016)

And may the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you, just as it does from us to you. May you be infused with strength and purity, filled with confidence in the presence of God our Father when our Master Jesus arrives with all his followers. [1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 (MSG)]

Holy FamilyDuring Hurricane Matthew last October, much of the population of Florida’s east coast came to the Gulf side to escape the storm. Hotel rooms were at a premium and shelters were full. While working over coffee at Starbucks, our new pastor overheard a family of four talking. Evacuees from the east, they’d arrived at their hotel only to discover that it was overbooked. There was no room at that inn nor at any other inn on the west coast. With all their belongings stuffed tightly in the car, there wasn’t even room for them to sleep in it. While they anxiously called hotels in search of a vacancy, our pastor tried to continue his work. Soon his conscience and the Holy Spirit had him quietly making calls on their behalf. Our young pastor was less than a week in town, with a sermon to prepare and a laundry list of things to do. His small condo was jam-packed with boxes that had not yet been emptied. Nevertheless, he listened to the Holy Spirit’s voice in his heart and introduced himself. Explaining he and his wife didn’t have much room, he offered what little they had. The mother’s first response was, “Thank God. Our prayers have been answered!”

God has a delightful sense of humor, proven by the fact that our pastor’s guests turned out to be a rabbi and his family! They got more than just a place to rest their weary heads—they got an evening filled Christian hospitality, spirited conversation and prayer. United by their love of God and a shared belief in what we call the Old Testament and they call the Hebrew Bible, the two families had much in common. When the storm had passed and they departed, the Jewish rabbi invited the evangelical Christian minister to visit his family and join him at temple.

It’s a beautiful story about a divine appointment—one of those amazing God-incidences of life. But, let’s go back to that coffee shop for a moment. What if, as many of us would do, our pastor had turned a deaf ear to their plight? What if he’d decided his work was more important than their predicament? What if he’d believed he had too little to offer? What if he’d let his inconvenience distract him from God’s plan? What if he’d ignored the Holy Spirit’s urging?

I think of another Jewish family, more than two thousand years ago, who had difficulty finding a room in crowded Bethlehem. Was there really no room at the inn or was it just because there was no room in the innkeeper’s heart? It was the innkeeper’s loss because his refusal meant he missed a divine appointment!

God schedules appointments for us throughout our lives. Whether we keep them, though, is entirely up to us. Heavenly Father, help us remember to make room in our hearts, not just for you, but for all of your children. Don’t let us miss any opportunity to share your love and may the message of Christmas remain with us all year long.

Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes! [1 Peter 4:8-11 (MSG)

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