Today is the Third Sunday in Advent.
She gave birth to her first son, wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger — there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7
The innkeeper in Bethlehem is not actually mentioned in scripture; his presence is only assumed. He has been added to the cast of Christmas pageants, either to give one more child a speaking part or to add drama to the story (as if it were needed!). Joseph stands at the door and says, “Please!” The innkeeper says, “No room.”
Hordes of people had flocked to the little city of Bethlehem. To what can we compare it? Any major city airport during inclement weather. New Orleans after Katrina. Only the rich or very lucky find hotel rooms. Displaced persons wander about, carrying their belongings, finally to spread out and rest anywhere they find six feet of space. This was the picture that night long ago.
Maybe Joseph stepped around a courtyard full of sleeping bodies to approach the door of the inn. He surely asked for accommodations, explained Mary’s situation. Perhaps she had felt the first nudge of contractions and it was evident she would have the baby soon.
Who’s to know what motivated the man in charge of the hostel that night. He didn’t invite all these people to come crowding into town. He would see nothing of the new tax. It was not unusual for women to die in childbirth, even in the best of conditions. What would he do if that happened? The innkeeper took time from his hectic job, maybe even stuck his neck out, to show consideration to someone in need.
Jesus’ birth was marked by a stranger’s act of compassion. As was his death. We don’t know Simon of Cyrene’s state of mind when he was asked to help Jesus — but he did it. He put aside his plans for the day and lifted the heavy cross from Jesus’ shoulders and put it on his own. And walked the last few steps to Calvary with our Savior.
Two men who moved away from the business of their daily lives to help someone. We know hardly anything about them, their deeds are mentioned only in passing. But they were part of something great.
Hopefully when our opportunity comes to perform and act of kindness, we will put aside our own concerns and do what God would have us do.