We enter this Advent season after two difficult, pandemic shaped years that have been marked by prolonged uncertainty and instability. In the United States alone, millions lost their jobs and are affected by whether or not landlords will evict them from their homes for failure to pay rent. A staggering number of families are food insecure for the first time in their lives. And those who were already on the brink are even less sure how to survive. And we are all exhausted in some way. Even if it is decision-fatigue. We have problems to address. And so did the Holy Family that night. An oppressive regime had demanded everyone upend their lives and hightail it to their hometowns to register for the census – for tax purposes, likely. For Mary and Joseph, that meant an arduous and dangerous 90-mile journey. Mary was full-on pregnant, on the verge of giving birth and the AirBnB app just wasn’t an option. Whether they got to town late or for some other reason, they had a housing problem that night.
The Innkeeper is a figure of our imaginations. Not referenced in the sacred texts, we assume that since Luke said there was an “inn,” then there must have been an “innkeeper.” Often our stories cast him in a negative light, someone who banished a pregnant woman to where the animals were kept. But what if, since we are engaging our imaginations anyway, what if he was truly an entrepreneur? Someone who saw a problem and thought, literally, “outside the box” to solve the problem of where Mary could have her child? Instead of thinking “There’s nowhere,” he said to himself first, “There has to be somewhere.”
In the middle of difficult times, even now during all our pandemic fatigue, we can remember those experiences, those moments, those breaths. We can reflect on those instants where it seemed that from out of the dark we walked up to a simple Inn…and found the Divine. Possibly it was something we witnessed. Perhaps someone we encountered. Maybe it was something in which we were blessed to play a part, in a big or small way. Even in challenging times, we can still find the Inn, we can still BE the Inn, that houses the Holy.
This Advent and Christmas, we invite you to reflect on such moments…and share them by contributing to FUMC’s custom Advent Devotional. Over each of the next four weeks we will post some Scripture ideas and a question or two on the FUMC website (under Groups and Events). Designed to help nudge your memories and shape your reflections, you are invited to click on the link that will be attached to the questions and scripture each week in order to sign up to contribute one of your reflections.
The weekly themes of the scriptures and questions will be: The Inn…Making Room – HOPE; The Inn…Creating a Place at the Table – PEACE; The Inn…How Much is Enough – JOY; The Inn…A Room with a View – LOVE; and The Inn…Housing the Holy (Christmas Day). Shape your response around one of the questions or Scripture ideas each week, or let the theme inspire you. Include a picture if you want.
You are invited to share your reflections this Advent and Christmas and help change the narrative from pandemic to holy wonder. The light of the Star of Bethlehem shone that night on TWO unlikely houses for the Holy – first a young, unwed teen, and then on a stable at an Inn. In such surprising places, the Holy shone through to the world. How have you seen – OR BEEN – a house for the Holy?