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Faith: Too many claim they don’t have time for Jesus

But take comfort that Jesus always has room for us

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It won’t be long now and we will once again hear or read the Christmas story from Luke’s gospel.

It occurred to me some time ago that there is something of a story within this story and it centers around verse 7 of chapter 2 where we encounter these words: “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

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The story I would like to hear is the story surrounding the innkeeper. Why? Because considering that Joseph and Mary are turned away from the inn implies that someone did the turning away — and that person goes down as the reason the Lord of the cosmos was born in a stable.

I would be curious to know more about this innkeeper. Was the inn truly full? Was no one willing to make a sacrifice on behalf of a pregnant woman soon to deliver?

Was the innkeeper an early version of the Grinch or Scrooge and did not want the hassle of a newborn and the possible commotion involved?

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And I wonder if the innkeeper ever realized who he turned away? Did he even care? Or did he truly regret his lack of hospitality?

This is the point where I would love to hear the late Paul Harvey step in and say, “And now for the rest of the story!”

As I consider the religious landscape of the world around us it seems as though things have not changed when it comes to welcoming Jesus. People are still quick to suggest that they do not have sufficient room in their lives for Jesus.

We are too busy. We have forgotten the art and honor of hospitality to strangers. We are too full of ourselves to be bothered by everything that comes with welcoming him or others into our lives and our community.

And that is unfortunate.

I do take comfort in the assurance that although people today may not have room for Jesus, Jesus always has room for us. Jesus will always leave the light on for us when we come seeking sanctuary and healing and comfort.

I am reminded of another story, a parable that involves an innkeeper. I am referring to the innkeeper in the parable of the Good Samaritan as found in Luke 10:25-37.

If you recall, once the Samaritan, the outsider, treats and binds up the man beat up by thugs and then ignored by the pious, he takes the poor guy to an inn and tells the innkeeper to take care of him until he returns.

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I am intrigued by this innkeeper as well because as a parish pastor I have often seen my vocation as one of extending hospitality and caring for those Jesus delivers to our church doors.

In bygone days churches and sanctuaries truly were places of refuge and healing. Many hospitals were established because churches took seriously their calling to care for the sick, the injured, the mistreated and the dying.

While the nature of hospitals has changed, many churches still welcome and embrace those who come to their doors seeking solace, peace, hope and salvation.

If we are honest with ourselves, we have all entered the doors of the church at times in our lives feeling broken and abused, looking for that balm of Gilead, the healing touch of Jesus.

So, in that regard, we are all wounded healers touched by the hand of Jesus so that we might extend a hand to those we encounter both inside and outside the sanctuary. This is our calling as disciples of Jesus and as fellow innkeepers, welcoming Jesus and welcoming our neighbors in need.

During this Advent and Christmas season may we be reminded that each of us is an innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus in our lives.

Back in 1963, Andy Williams recorded the seasonal favorite, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” It is a lovely song, but I sometimes wonder, is it really?

Is it really the most wonderful time of the year?

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My intent is not to come across as Scrooge, but for many this is a really hard time of the year. The Christmas season for some is hard because either they are grieving the loss of a loved one or because the holidays remind them that while their loved one died years ago, they are still missing them.

I remember the first Christmas after my mom died. It was a difficult time as none of us felt all that holly or jolly. And to be honest, I grew weary of well-intentioned people trying to “cheer me up.”

As I look back on that first year, I wish I knew then what I know now, and I wish I would have asked folks to chill with the holiday spirit and if they want to be helpful, just be present.

Sit with me. If I felt like talking, to remain silent and simply listen respectfully. Don’t try to explain the tragedy. Don’t tell me everything will be OK. I knew that, but not yet.

At that time everything sucked, everything was wrong and no amount of good cheer was going to change that.

I suspect we all know someone going through some tough times right now. Maybe it is the death of a loved one. Maybe it is a lost job, a marriage that is sinking fast, a child that keeps you awake at night with worry.

The possibilities are endless.

My advice is the same: Be present, provide space for silence, a hand to hold, an ear to listen and a heart to understand them. Your presence is the best present they will receive this Christmas.

This is called ministry to which we are all called to.

Oh, and if you are the one grieving or having a tough time and your friend comes to you offering this gift of presence, allow them the opportunity. I say this because they are grieving for you.

It no doubt breaks their hearts to see you in such pain and they really don’t know what to do and they don’t want to make it worse.

Do not turn them away. Welcome them, sit with them, share the holy ground between you. Why? Because this too is ministry.

It may or not be the most wonderful time of the year, but there is never a time when the presence of Jesus is not welcomed.

Have a blessed Advent and hopefully a joyous Christmas as you welcome Jesus standing at your door wishing to enter and sit with you.

Stephen Blenkush is pastor at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Pequot Lakes.

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