-Rev. Craig A. McDonald-
While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.
Sometimes you have to work with what you’ve got. In this small segment of text we have the climax of the story but it’s overshadowed by the fact that they can’t even find a place for Mary to have her child with dignity. One would have thought they could squeeze a little bit to make room for at least Mary and her child. Surely there was another guest who was staying at the inn that was like…oh wait…please take my space since you’re about about have a child! It is surprising that there isn’t anyone who steps up to show even just a little bit of compassion to Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. It must have felt like rejection in their time of need.
There are a couple of things that we can take away from this place. The first is that it is precisely the Inn’s purpose in this story to reveal the lack of hospitality and it’s inability to impede arrival of the Good News. Mary and Joseph have overcome much to be in this moment including a dangerous journey (as much travel was), cultural judgment and barriers concerning their relationship, and now they overcome an inhospitable delivery room.
The second thing that we might take away from the Inn is that it is, of course, something for us to be on the lookout lest we mirror that behavior. Hospitality is a key element of of the Hebrew tradition and Jesus’ ministry. The Inn highlights the injustice of their situation and shares with us an opportunity to ask, ‘what is hospitality?’
Many Latino communities celebrate a tradition called Las Posadas. There are variations in how it is celebrated but the gist is that community members travel to another’s house or church. Some members represent Mary and Joseph as they are in search of hospitality while the other community members represent the innkeeper. They sing and call back and forth, Mary and Joseph pleading for space and the innkeeper denying them a place. However, in this story the innkeeper begins to recognize that this is Mary and Joseph, recognizing the Spirit. Everyone is invited in and a great feast is shared!
This tradition empowers us to look at the world and open our hearts to the spirit of God in others. They may be people we know or they may be strangers. They may be people like us or they may be very different. The point is that we have the opportunity to rewrite the story and to invite Mary and Jospeh in. We have the chance to share that hospitality that was once denied. Let us be open wherever we find ourselves.
Loving God, let us be open to the sharing and receiving of hospitality and may we always find the courage to make space.
Rev. Craig McDonald is an ordained minister with the Disciples of Christ (Christian Church), most recently serving First Christian Church of Rome, GA. Rev. Craig served as a Young Adult Pastor at Arch Street UMC in Philadelphia, PA, as Associate Pastor at Mercy Community Church in Atlanta, and as a Youth Pastor at Sandy Springs Christian Church. He earned his MDiv from Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, and earned his Bachelor’s degree from Columbus State University.
Craig loves mountain biking and all things outdoors. He and his wife, Megan, enjoy cooking, traveling, and hiking with their dog Maxwell.