Our First Innkeeper Story: The Innkeeper of Bethlehem(s):
Anybody here old enough to remember the decade of the 60s? It was the decade of protests and demonstrations. Let me tell you about one very unusual demonstration that took place in the mid-sixties. It happened in December of 1965.
It was Christmas Eve in 1965 in Bethlehem . . . Pennsylvania. The innkeeper at the local Holiday Inn had had a busy day. It was late now… and he was at the main desk alone. Although the inn was filled up with Christmas travelers, he had graciously sent most of the workers home to be with their families for Christmas Eve… and the lobby was relatively quiet now.
But then as he was finishing up some paperwork at the front desk, he suddenly heard a noise, and he looked up. He couldn’t believe his eyes! Walking in the main door of the Holiday Inn on this Christmas Eve in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania was a young man dressed in a Biblical costume. Actually, it was an old, tattered bathrobe. The young man was pulling a donkey. On the donkey was a young woman who looked to be quite expectant. As they approached the desk, the young man announced loudly for all to hear, “My name is Joseph… and this is Mary… and as you can see, she is about to have a baby. We need a room for the night.”
Now, before telling you the rest of the story… let me digress to share with you what was really happening that Christmas Eve in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 1965. The young man’s name was not Joseph, and the young woman was not really named Mary… and she was not really expecting a baby. This true incident was designed to be a kind of “political demonstration” against the commercialization of Christmas.
Since there had been a “No Vacancy” sign up for several hours, this modern-day Mary and Joseph fully expected to be turned away. In fact, they wanted to be turned away. They were certain that they would be told that there was “no room in the inn” for them. Then their plan was to go to the media with the story of their rejection.
But the innkeeper dealt the demonstrators a big surprise that night. Warmly, the innkeeper rushed around the desk, and he welcomed them graciously. “Mary and Joseph, how great it is to have you with us! You honor us by coming here tonight. What a privilege to have you under our roof! It’s true that all our regular rooms are taken, but we would be so pleased if you would occupy the bridal suite… and of course, since it’s Christmas Eve, there will be no charge. You will be our special guests of honor!”
Now, that’s what you call “rising to the occasion!” That innkeeper proved to be very wise, didn’t he? He knew the Christmas story, and he had something of the spirit of Christmas within him. He was also very shrewd because he knew how harshly history can deal with an unsuspecting innkeeper.
Now, that creative innkeeper in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, has haunted me ever since I first read that story some weeks ago. He jolted my conscience and made me look in a fresh, new way at the innkeeper in the original Christmas story. He smashed the stereotyped image of the innkeeper and let new ideas come into my mind. He enabled me to see the innkeeper from a different perspective and sent me scrambling for my Bible and my commentaries, my dictionaries and resource books in search of a new understanding of this original innkeeper who has become such a prominent figure in our Christmas pageants. When we look at him with an open mind, I think that opinions about him should change. There is a lesson here about prejudice . . . about the danger of judging people and events without all the facts, the danger of letting our imaginations run wild.
When we judge other people or assess events without the whole truth the results can be destructive, dangerous, damaging, and unfair. You see, I suspect that we have treated the innkeeper unfairly. History has dealt with him harshly. We have sternly painted him up and written him off as a bad character, when the truth is we know virtually nothing about him.
How fascinated we have been with this innkeeper. He has captured the imagination of poets and playwrights, preachers and songwriters, artists, and storytellers. We have pictured him as a harsh, irritable, insensitive character, who was too caught up in his own self-centered world to be bothered by the problems of others, too cold and calculating to be bothered even by a young couple who were obviously expecting a baby at any moment.
We picture him with a loud booming voice, arrogant, impatient, and with big burly arms pushing the young couple out into the cold streets. “Get out! We’re full up! No room here. I can’t be bothered with you and your problems. I have enough problems of my own.”
The innkeeper really didn’t have a good choice that night. Remember the setting. The sleepy little town of Bethlehem was suddenly packed with people. Caesar had sent out the order for a new enrollment of the people for tax purposes. Everyone had to return to his or her hometown for the census. Bethlehem was bursting at the seams with people.
In those days hotels operated on a first come-first served basis, and every available room was taken. When Joseph and Mary came to his door that night, the innkeeper had to make a decision. Would he send away those already settled in to make room for the latecomers? It was not an easy choice to make. What would you have done if you had been in his place?
William Barclay suggests that the innkeeper may have been the only friend Mary and Joseph had that night in Bethlehem. Tradition suggests that he sent them to a cave near the inn to spend the night. There were some good reasons for that decision. Hotels in those days were hardly luxury editions. Most of them were two-story buildings. The upper floor was used for the guests, with not much privacy, and the first floor was set aside for the animals upon which the people traveled. Hotels back then were cold, smelly places; and that night they were crowded and noisy, hardly a place for the birth of a baby.
But Bethlehem afforded another possibility. Built on a ridge of limestone, the town had numerous caves. Some of these caves were used as stables. They were not much better for an expectant mother, but at least there was warmth and quiet and some privacy. If this is what happened on that night long ago, then our whole image of the innkeeper changes dramatically – we view him not with contempt, but with kindness. He may well have made a wise, loving choice.
The Second Innkeeper Story: The Israelites and Us:
Luke 2: 1 – 7 (NKJ),
“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Now let’s fast-forward to us here at Reunion today.
A. We often talk about how we want a visitation or a
revival from God.
1. We ask God to move in our midst, and praise God
he has been. He has raised up Kenny and Paul and others. He is bringing healing to Jaxson. He has taken Billie home to end her suffering.
2. And every now and then God’s presence fills this place in a mighty way. We can feel Him here when we worship together.
a. I believe that God wants to do more.
b. I believe that God wants to touch every life
here at Reunion.
3. Yes, Its God desire to be with his people
a. It’s God’s desire to be with us today!
b. He wants to fill this place with His
B. Matthew 1:23 says, “. . . and they shall call His name
Immanuel, which is translated ‘God with us.’”
1. The message of the Christmas season is that
God sent His Son to dwell with His people, to provide the way that they could once again have fellowship with the Father.
2. The purpose of the cross is that we can be
reconciled back to God.
C. We have experienced amazing moves of God here at Reunion, and we have experienced times in our lives individually where God seemed to be so close to us that we could reach out and touch Him. A personal God revival in our lives if you will. Everything is great for a few weeks but then things seem to return to the status quo.
1. So, what seems to be the problem?
LUKE 2: 7
“7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
SEGUE: “I believe that God has given us the answer and the solution.”
I. Our answer is found in the story of Haggai
Haggai 1: 2 – 9 (NKJ),
2 “Thus speaks the Lord of hosts, saying: ‘This people says, “The time has not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.” 3 Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying, 4 “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?” 5 Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways!
6 “You have sown much, and bring in little;
You eat, but do not have enough;
You drink, but you are not filled with drink;
You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm;
And he who earns wages,
Earns wages to put into a bag with holes.”
7 Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways! 8 Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,” says the Lord. 9 “You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?” says the Lord of hosts. “Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house.”
A. God’s people had come back from captivity and
God’s Temple had been destroyed.
1. The people were commanded to rebuild the
Temple, but they were too busy finishing their own houses and going on with their daily lives to rebuild God’s house.
2. But, they worked and didn’t get anything in
return. (Haggai 1:6)
a. They planted seed – crops were small
b. They ate – but were not filled
c. They drank – but were still thirsty
d. They made themselves clothes – but were
e. They made money – but couldn’t save any
3. In verse 9 God tells them why this had
a. The reason is that they had made homes for
themselves while God didn’t have one.
b. They had made for themselves a life and
God had been left out of it.
3. Once again, “there was no room for Him in the
Haggai 1: 14 (NKJ),
“14 So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God,”
B. So now, the people work on the House of the Lord.
ASK, “How does God respond?”
Haggai 2: 4 – 9 (NKJ)
“4 Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ says the Lord; ‘and be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; and be strong, all you people of the land,’ says the Lord, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ says the Lord of hosts. 5 ‘According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!’ 6 “For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; 7 and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts. 8 ‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts. 9 ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the Lord of hosts.”
C. The Lord was with them!
1. His Spirit was with them!
2. He promised to shake the nations!
3. He promised to fill His Temple once again!
4. He promised that the Glory of the Latter
Temple would be even greater than the first!
5. He promised to bring peace!
ASK, “So what does this mean to us? What does it mean that the Glory of the Latter Temple will be greater than the First?”
1 Corinthians 3: 16 (NKJ),
“16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”
II. We Are The Temples Of God!
A. Our lives are supposed to be the dwelling place for
God!! Emmanuel, God With Us! God wants His Glory to be seen in our lives!
ASK, “Is There Any Room In The Inn For God?”
ASK, “Is There Any Room In Your Life For Him?”
B. Or, are we like the Israelites who were too busy
letting their lives be filled with everything else except the presence of God?
1. Is this the reason why we only teeter on the brink
of revival instead of being completely engulfed by
2. If our lives are filled with the cares of this world
then where is the room for God?
C. In our story in Haggai, from a figurative point of view, ARE we like the Israelites who are:
1. Planting seeds – but seeing very little fruit?
2. Crying out to God to be filled – but, are still
4. Searching for Living Water – but, are still
4. Living in our Houses – yet unable to stay warm?
D. Are We Crying For God’s Presence, Yet Not Making Room for Him In Our Inn?
Segue: “There are Three things that we must do to make room
for Him. They come from . . .”
III. The Dedication Of Solomon’s Temple
1 Kings 8:5 (NKJ),
“5 Also King Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel who were assembled with him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing sheep and oxen that could not be counted or numbered for multitude.”
A. Before God’s Glory could fill Solomon’s Temple
sacrifices had to be made.
B. In Romans 12: 1 Paul writes,
“I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies
of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
B. (1) WE MUST FIRST PRESENT OURSELVES TO
GOD AS LIVING SACRIFICES.
1. This is something that is to be a constant
dedication. Not just from time to time but something that happens every day, always.
D. In 2 Timothy 2: 19 – 21 the Amplified Bible says,
“But the firm foundation of (laid by) God stands, sure and unshaken, bearing this seal (inscription): The Lord knows those who are his, and, Let everyone who names (himself by) the Name of the Lord give up all iniquity and stand aloof from it. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also (utensils) of wood and earthenware, and some for honorable and noble (use) and some for menial and ignoble (use). So, whoever CLEANSES himself (from what is ignoble and unclean, who separates himself from contact with contaminating and corrupting influences) will (then himself) be a vessel set apart and useful for honorable and noble purposes, consecrated and profitable to the Master. Fit and ready for any good work.”
E. SECONDLY, WE MUST ALLOW GOD TO
CLEANSE OR SEPARATE US FROM THOSE THINGS THAT WOULD FILL OUR HEARTS WITH ANYTHING UNGODLY.
1 Kings 8: 6, 9 (NKJ),
“6 Then the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, into the inner sanctuary of the temple, to the Most Holy Place, under the wings of the cherubim. . . . 9 Nothing was in the ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.”
F. The Temple had to be filled with the things of God.
1. It wasn’t enough for just the sacrifices to be
made and that it was cleansed, but God’s word
had to be inside.
G. In John 14:23 John writes,
“Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come and make Our home with him.”
1. Remember Jesus’ example of the man who was
cleansed from the unclean spirit but left his life empty and the unclean spirit came back with 7 others worse than himself. Jesus said that the second state of that man was worse than the first. (Matthew 12: 43 – 45.)
H. THE THIRD THING THAT WE MUST DO IS BE
FILLED WITH THE THINGS OF GOD.
1. His Spirit – Ephesians 5: 18
2. His Word – John 15: 7
I. After the SACRIFICES are presented, and our
Temple is CLEANSED and we FILL OURSELVES
WITH THE THINGS OF GOD; THEN GOD CAN
COME IN AND HIS GLORY CAN FILL OUR
Segue: Now let’s move to our final Innkeeper:
Our Third Innkeeper Story: Wally
Wally was big for his age–seven years old. Everyone wondered what role the teacher would give him in the annual Christmas play. Especially considering the fact that he was also a slow learner. Perhaps he could pull the curtain. To everyone’s surprise the teacher gave Wally the role of the innkeeper. The boy of course was delighted. After all, all he had to learn was one line: “There is no room in the inn.” He had that down in no time.
Then came the night for the program. The parents took their places. Every seat in the auditorium was filled. The children entered singing “Oh come all ye faithful.” The lights dimmed. A hush moved over the audience. The curtain opened on Scene One. Mary and Joseph entered the stage and walked up to the inn. “Please sir, my wife is not well. Could we have a room for the night?” Wally was ready for his line. He had rehearsed it all night. He began, “there is…” and he hesitated. He started over again; “there is. . .” and again his mind went completely blank. Everyone was embarrassed for him and poor Wally just didn’t know what to do. Joseph thought he would improvise and started walking away toward the stable on stage left. Seeing him walking away Wally in desperation called out: “Look, there’s plenty of room at my house, just come on home with me!”
· “So, what type of Innkeeper are You?”
Are we like the Israelites who came back from captivity and were too busy building their own lives to build the Kingdom of God?
· “Is the room for God in the Inn of Your heart?” Or is
it filled with the cares and concerns of this world?”
· “Or, is there a space in your life that you have kept back
from God?” Are there areas in your life where you
have put up a “No Trespassing Sign” for God.
· Or, are you like the Innkeeper at the Holiday Inn in Bethlehem, PA, or like Wally, “There is plenty of room at my house, just come in and live with me!”
God promised in Haggai 2: 9 that the glory of the Latter Temple will be greater than the first!! God wants to make our lives glorious with His presence! He wants our lives to be a showcase of His love, His mercy, and His grace!
Rev. 3:20 (NKJ).
“20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him, and he with Me.”
God is looking for a place to dwell, is there room in your Heart this Advent season?
God, we thank You for this time of year where we focus on Your goodness and Your grace. We focus on how You loved us that You sent Your Son Jesus, to be Emmanuel, God with us and in us. Jesus came to let Your love, goodness, and grace to be a part of our daily lives. Help us to make room for You in our lives. Help us to make room for You in our hearts. Forgive us for the times we allow this world to crowd You out of our lives. Help us to present ourselves to You daily as living sacrifices, we ask that You cleanse us from the things that are not of You and for You. Give us a hunger to be filled with Your Word and Your Spirit. Let us be an innkeeper that always has room in our lives for You. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.
We are a Bible teaching Christian church in Peoria, AZ. We love God and teach His Truth. We invite you, your family and friends to join us on the faith journey, growing closer to one another, the Christian community of believers at Reunion, and most importantly with God. Read more about the timeless Truth we build our lives and faith in Christ on HERE.
We are conveniently located just off the 101 on 83rd Ave and Cactus Rd. Join us on Sunday mornings, Weds. evenings, and throughout the week at our small groups, meeting in homes around the Valley, including Surprise, Glendale, Peoria, Phoenix, Goodyear, Litchfield, and more. Connect with us on Facebook and watch our live streaming service on YouTube.