No Vacancy

No Vacancy: Have We Given the Innkeeper a Bad Rap?


“and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”  Luke 2: 7


Surely, the only thing worse than making an 80-mile trek while pregnant and riding on a donkey is finding a “No Vacancy” sign greeting you upon arrival.  My Bible footnote says the journey would have taken at least three days – and some say upwards of a week. Not a pleasant trip even if you’re not pregnant.

But Caesar declared a census and the whole world complied.  The really interesting part is, though Caesar issued the decree, God gave the prophecy 700 years earlier—the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.  Our great God is the best chess player of all.  He works through natural events and circumstances to fulfill His plan – and often surprise and delight us in the process.

Our church incorporated a set of videos done by The Skit Guys into our Christmas musical this year.  Each video featured a character from the nativity story telling his or her own story.  These were so well done.  Because they were dressed in modern-day attire, they seemed more real.  It occurred to me that too often the first-century dress has me subconsciously thinking of the shepherds, wise men, the inn keeper and maybe even Mary and Joseph as “characters” in a story rather than real, live, flesh and blood people.

After hearing the inn keeper, I’ve decided we’ve given him a bad rap down through the centuries.  I’ve pictured a big, burly, pompous, rich guy booming, “There is no room!” Somehow I’ve thought there really was a room back there somewhere and he just didn’t offer it.  But really—the man was an innkeeper.  That was his business.  If there was a room, wouldn’t he have booked it?

In actuality, he did make room.  It wasn’t the nicest place – a stable can’t replace a firm mattress, clean sheets, and an Andes mint on the pillow – but it was shelter.  The innkeeper offered what he had available.

And isn’t that all God asks of us?  How often have I turned on the “No Vacancy” sign because I can’t offer the best – or what I perceive to be the best?

Would meatloaf suffice if I don’t have (and have no idea how to prepare) prime rib?  Go ahead and invite the new neighbors over!

Would a box mix work if I have no time to do made-from-scratch?  Go ahead and bake cookies for the college students!

Could I just send a card instead of driving the one hour to pay the hospital visit? Send the card!

It occurs to me that too many times I’ve had the perfect idea – the one that requires a bunch more time, effort, and expense.  But the follow through never happens.  There is no room – time-wise, money-wise, or even ability-wise to do it.  Have I been duped?  Has pride kept me immobilized?

Perhaps we could learn a little lesson from the innkeeper – just give what you have, do what you can, and trust God with the rest.

Maybe it’s time to make some room – or look for where we really had a little room all along.

Time to pull down – and maybe throw out – that No Vacancy sign.

God, show us where and how to make room!


      Laura Macfarlan


(Photo Attribution:  Let There Be Neon)