Room in Our Inn
Advent is a time to prepare. Over the course of four Sundays, and the weeks in between, we ready our hearts, our minds, our homes, our church and our souls for the Christ light.
The ongoing pandemic is leaving so much uncertainty and instability in its wake. In the United States alone, millions have 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. Those who were already on the brink are even less sure how to survive.
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. According to our sacred story, an oppressive regime had demanded everyone upend their lives and hightail it to their hometowns to register for the census. Mary was 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 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 him self first, “There has to be somewhere.”
Our worship this Advent and Christmas season is inspired by churches who are asking these kinds of questions. They are churches that are seeking to transform their property assets into solutions for various community needs, and strengthen their own viability in the process. Some are offering affordable office space to nonprofits that work to alleviate society’s problems, some are creating affordable housing, some after-school help, some food distribution. Just like the innkeeper. Housing the holy work of Divine Love can happen in many ways.
We, of course, do not have property of our own and so are limited in our ability to use physical space to help our community. But we aren’t broke. We have resources. It’s a matter of what we do with those resources. Do we sit on them in a mindset of scarcity, or do we use them to meet needs in our community and remain viable as a faith community ourselves? What would it mean to invest in affordable housing, for instance, rather than in the stock market?
I invite you to spend this Advent and Christmas seeing our church’s situation in a different light, not one of simply trying to survive but as a church with power to make change. The light of the Star of Bethlehem shone that night on an unlikely house for the holy — a stable. The Light of Christ is shining on us, inviting us to become a beacon of hope to others.