The holidays are upon us. Thanksgiving stuffing is a recent memory (and I am not talking about the kind you eat!). People are recovering from the craziness of Black Friday shopping. Everyone is wondering how to survive the eating and spending associated with the upcoming Christmas season. It seems as if it is getting worse each year, but why? Christmas should be a time when we reflect on the blessings we have, enjoy the decorations and music of the holidays, remember what gifts have been given to us, and consider how we can help those who are not as fortunate as we. In these tough economic times it is easy to think that we can’t afford to help anyone. If that is the way you feel, I would invite you to sit in the waiting room of my wound center. People tell me that after sitting in the waiting room for any length of time, no matter how bad they think they are, there is always someone there who is worse off.
In his 1946 Christmas poem “The Innkeeper,” Howard Farrens re-tells the story of the first Christmas, but from the viewpoint of the innkeeper.1 He recalls Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem to pay taxes when Mary was expecting a baby at any minute. When they arrived in Bethlehem all the places to stay were full. The innkeeper insisted he had no more rooms but told them they could stay in the stable where he had just added new straw for the animals. That night the baby Jesus was born. The Christmas star guided the shepherds, and later the wisemen, to the birthplace lighting up the stable and the inn. Soon, with all the commotion in the stable, the innkeeper realized something special was happening. When he and his wife realized what was going on she said, “Had I but known the circumstance…You would have had my care and my own bed…Alas! It is too late. The hour is past.” Has there been a time when you missed an opportunity to help someone in need? Have you just felt too tired or too busy to notice someone’s need or provide for them? Have you ever felt there was no need to offer since you probably couldn’t help them anyway?
Later the innkeeper reflected, “I have been criticized for what I did, and I have cared, of course, what men may say…And I have often thought at times since then, What glory might have come to my poor inn, If I had found a room for this one pair—To give them food and lodging, shelter there.” Do you depend on what others might think or say to determine what help you provide? Do you have concern for others just for the “glory that might have come”? I certainly hope not.
As the Christmas season arrives, I challenge you to look around to see what needs and challenges others face. Meet as many of those challenges as possible without concern for what others may think or the benefit you might receive from those deeds. Then, you will have a Merry Christmas in the truest sense of the season.
1. Farrens HA. The Innkeeper. Dallas, TX: Avalon Press; 1946.