Notes on Christmas: Making Space

I used to think the innkeeper in the Christmas story was the villain.

No one ever told me that, but through the years I think I secretly just thought “What a rotten dude! He couldn’t give a pregnant woman a bed?”

At some points I pictured him as this indifferent guy who shrugged and was like “Yeah, that’s too bad.” Sometimes I imagined him as this weak old man who should have kicked his other guests out. Often I imagined him as this mean guy who said something like “Just go sleep in the barn because I don’t have time for sad stories.”

For whatever reason, I seemed to forget Herod was out there wreaking havoc. I was just full on outraged with this innkeeper. I thought he could have done something, really anything. Like sir, you could go sleep with your cows and give the woman your room!

But the reality is, I have no idea what the innkeeper was like. Maybe he was in a tight spot and gave what he had. Maybe he went to sleep on the floor feeling guilty. Maybe he had already given up his room and was sleeping on the roof with cats.

But this year, I’ve been shouldering this deep sense that I’m the innkeeper. Joy to the World keeps instructing me to “prepare him room” and I’m scrambling to make a place.

In the middle of folding laundry, here’s some room. While I’m washing bottles and towels, here’s some room. While I’m falling asleep with milk on my shirt and unwashed hair, here’s some room.

In the Christmas season as a new and working mom, sometimes I feel like I’m giving the Savior of the world my messiest place.

But the thought kept occurring to me God never wrote a bad thing about the innkeeper. He could have totally made space to say something like “that selfish man maketh no room and therefore I do not liketh him” or whatever fits (clearly, something better than that). But there’s actually no innkeeper mentioned. For all I know, there was no innkeeper driving them away. Maybe there was just simply no room and they figured it out on their own. Maybe I’ve been mad at a guy that doesn’t exist at all.

But someone had a barn. Maybe it was the innkeeper, maybe it was some guy who saw them walking his way. The point is that someone made room and God never wrote the story to sound like it wasn’t good enough. Jesus came in the place that was available. He used whatever space had been made.

This year, I’m holding on to the truth that he comes in the middle of unglamorous things. In the middle of diaper changes. When the dishes are piled and prayers are mumbled in the last moments of the day.

I’m making room in the spaces between naps and in the pauses in projects, in moments when I have just a second of silence alone.

Because preparing him room doesn’t mean you need a castle, or a Balsam Hill tree (because who can actually afford those monstrous things?) He just needs an invitation for a place to stay. He comes in the mess, in the exhausted moments, amidst the busy holiday plans, next to the tree with burned out bulbs and the cookies you forgot to bake.

He doesn’t despise the innkeeper. He doesn’t despise invitations that feel small and unworthy, fragments and pieces that we offer throughout the day. There’s grace for the weary, for the moments when you only have the energy to whisper his name.

I’m sorry to the innkeeper, or the barn owner, or whoever gave them a space. You made a place for a miracle and it was enough. I’m still learning the invitation itself is more important than the place.

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