Opening Prayer. Oh God who has welcomed us, may we be a people who welcome all others as your beloved. Amen.
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.
You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
The Innkeeper’s Reflection- From Mary Fisher
“Be careful what you pray for.”
I can just hear my mother saying this, and I’ve never felt its truth I have these days. For years, I have prayed for my inn’s success. It’s how I support my family, after all. And besides – this is a good inn. Like my father and grandfather before me, I take pride in offering travelers a comfortable and safe place to stay in Bethlehem. We are in the business of fulfilling the law of God, offering hospitality to the stranger in our midst.
When I heard about the census, my eyes lit up. So many travelers needing a place to stay! These days, I think with dread, “So many travelers needing a place to stay!” The inn has never been so full – every nook and cranny is occupied. My family is even sleeping together so one more room is available. The inn is like a hive, quivering with activity, pulsing with every breath. It’s exciting – and exhausting.
Tonight, one more couple needs a place to stay. And she looks like she’s going to have a baby any minute! But there is no room! Every inch is occupied. I can’t even offer them the floor. And yet both the law of God and the tradition of our people say I can’t turn them away. I have to welcome them. Somehow, tonight, it seems more important than ever.
The best I can offer is the stable. God knows it isn’t much, but it’s warm and dry and safe. With all the straw, I hope they can make it comfortable. Maybe tomorrow we can find them a better place to stay, but for now, this is the best I can do. I’m giving all I have. I pray it’s enough.
Questions for Consideration.
Closing Prayer. Oh Lord, you commanded your people Israel to welcome the stranger, since they were once strangers in Egypt. And now you have welcomed us into your family. Teach us to extend your welcome to others, as you have welcomed us. Amen.