As I read the Bible's account of what lead up to the birth of our savior, I am left with a visceral impression of the event's raw nature preceding an arresting event unrivaled by any of the greatest accomplishments found in humankind. In reading the scripture, I see that I (we) are at times like the innkeeper with no room for a wondering couple, unkempt, likely anxious, traveled, musty, dirty and obviously going to be needing attention. Imagine opening your front door and there stands this couple, the pregnant woman on a smelly donkey. The couple looking at you with pleading eyes that pierce deep. Your heart opens just a bit, but not as far open as the doorway between you and them; for a fraction of a moment you contemplate the right thing to do. But then the door closes quickly and tightly as thoughts of all you have to do come rushing to mind overpowering the image of fatigue that stands before you in the uninvited. As you close the door, the couple looks at each other in amazement and disbelief. You behind the closed door, maybe give them one more consideration, then return to what is important to you. Yet, you do not realize you have closed the door on the messengers who usher in the greatest event in human history.
The couple presses on, perhaps, one inn after the next. Nothing to sell, offer or give that would make the pleading more palatable to the next innkeeper. No, in fact, they need something, want something, anything for the opportunity to stop and bring this child into the world, and to rest from their dusty journey.
If you have ever been to a stable or some place where there are animals of various sizes, you know well before you are ever on the scene, your olfactory senses are way ahead of you. As you draw closer, your face is likely reacting to the environment, as is your stomach, both graduating toward the emotion of disgust. If I were Joseph, I would have been concurrently relieved to have a place for the mother of my child to lay, and at the same time, I would likely be feeling dismay at there being no better option. If I were feeling the experience for Mary, I would be wondering only about safety, security and that my love was at hand.
Moments pass quickly, then the whimpering, giving way to perhaps screaming, pushing, clutching the hand of her betrothed. There is no doctor on hand, no medication to give, no running water, dimmer for the lights or soft music. There is only love in a very, very raw place to be.
But, that is our savior. He is the example to go to the places we likely would not, accept by God's grace and calling do we have the capacity. And, when he gets there, he announces by his presence, likely following the drying and salty tears on the cheeks and lips of those witness to his birth (in swaddling clothes no less) he is "sustenance for the world" 1.
Under circumstance likely none of us would choose, similar to many unanticipated challenges (loss of work, illness, aging, etc.) we would not choose in our lives today, Joseph and Mary found courage to bring our savior into the world and a commitment to deal with anything that would follow. How did they do this? Might this birth experience be an example to handle our own lives, given to us by our Lord?
The scriptures reveal both Joseph and Mary were given a command and reason for the command:
- Joseph was told by an angel in a dream, "Do not be afraid..." (Matthew 1:20). Why? Because "he [Jesus] will save his people from their sins" (21);
- Mary, "who was greatly troubled" (Luke 1:29), was told by the angel, Gabriel, "Do not be afraid..." (30). Why? Because Jesus (31) born from her will be "...great and will be called Son of the Most High..." (32).
What is more important than this child, delivered by a tired and anxious couple? As innkeepers, if we let them in and accompany them to deal with this pregnancy and birth, we will be distracted, fatigued, taxed and have to deal with the uncomfortable. However, by embracing the challenge of this child's birth, we are witness to "the most momentous single event in the history of the world" 2.
Now that is an adrenalin rush for any innkeeper.