Quit the Crowd[ed inn]

My son played the innkeeper in the church Christmas play this year. He’s a fifth-grader, aging out, a good foot taller than every other child. Cas was, of course, a great innkeeper. Molly even drew him into her nativity scene, as pictured. The children’s voices rang out so pure and strong! “Those were the days,” Bing Crosby would have told them.

In the search for fullness, I always stop and listen when I come across a Bible passage with emptiness or fullness involved. The Innkeeper’s infamous nativity-made line pricks my heart, “There’s no room for you.” Too full.  (It wasn’t his fault – it was just a fact. Sweet Innkeeper. :))

I stop and consider as the countdown to Christmas puts a crick in my neck: the inn wasn’t so much full… it was crowded. There is good fullness and bad fullness, and we all try to keep ourselves from the empty, and in the process we often let our hearts and schedules get crowded. The bad kind of fullness.

The holidays are of course more prone to crowding as we hustle and hurry and worry. Over time, I think our hearts suffer just the same, whether empty or crowded. It’s just easier to manage our pain when we are crowded, when from the outside it looks like everything is going well. Business is good – look at all these full rooms!

When Jesus comes knocking, though, we are too busy to notice. Too busy to hear His voice in the breeze, His small gifts, His hidden ways. “Have you noticed all the little ways I’ve been taking care of you lately?” He asked me the other day. And I realized, I hadn’t.

Fortunately He does not turn away from us – He simply goes out back, to the stable, and makes Himself at home and waits until we are ready to notice. Ready to be brave to walk away from success and “good business” and “good busyness” and “full rooms.” Ready to quit the crowd and face the emptiness. Ready to go searching for what our hearts really need. Ready to walk into the night and look at the stars and listen to the silence of the dark and find our hidden Savior and all the little ways He is taking care of us.

I wonder if the remedy is not trying to push enough stuff aside to make enough room for Love inside the inn, but to do what He did: something completely other-than. Outside. In that other dimension – our spirits maybe?  It is messy and dirty and unfamiliar and unfit, but that is just where God chose His only Son to come. I wonder what we have missed, trying to make room inside the inn.

This Christmas, may you have the courage to find the emptiness, to go outside and look for the only one who can satisfy:

 

Emmanuel

God With Us

The Word become flesh

Dwelling among us

Full of grace and Truth.

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