Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
Figures of the Nativity
And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first born Son and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no place for them at the inn. Luke 2:6-7
Good morning Prayer Team!
Two facts about the Nativity. Fact one: There was no room for Mary and Joseph to stay at any inn in Bethlehem. Every inn was filled, every room was taken, as thousands of people descended on a tiny town for the census. Fact two: The birth of Jesus did not occur in a barn, as depicted in most manger scenes around town. Back in the time of Jesus, it was common for animals in the area to stay in caves in towns like Bethlehem where there were many hills and uneven terrain. Rather than building barns, animal owners used the natural caves that were available to them.
Symbolically, not only was there no room in the inn for the Savior of the world to be born, but there was no room in anything made by human hands that could hold the Creator of the human hands. A cave was part of the creation created by God Himself. This was where the Savior would be born.
Unlike the Christmas programs we are used to, where the innkeeper steps up to tell Mary and Joseph “there is no room here, but I have a stable out back,” there is no innkeeper who appears in the Bible. In the Nativity story, (just like in the Christmas pageant) there would have to have been an innkeeper, probably many of them, who told Mary and Joseph, “Sorry, no place here, all the rooms are full.” I’m positive there would have been more than one inn in Bethlehem so Mary and Joseph were probably rejected many times. And probably not only at inns but in homes as well. Imagine looking for a place to stay and striking out everyone.
I once heard an analogy that the Christian life is like a door with one doorknob. We sit on one side of the door, Christ is on the other. The doorknob is only on our side. Christ knocks at the door, asking to come into our hearts and our lives, to lead us to His Kingdom. We make the choice to open the door.
Two questions arise from the metaphor of the innkeeper, as relates to our lives. First, is there room at “our inn” for the Savior? And second, which room do we give Him? Do we give Him “the presidential suite” (the best room), or the “cave out in the back” that isn’t really suitable for lodging in?
The lesson of the innkeeper is all about priorities in life. Does Christ get the first place, or the last; the first fruits or the leftovers? Is prayer something we do first thing in the morning, or does it wait for the last breath at night? Do we arrive for Liturgy a few minutes early, or many minutes late? How many hours do we spend on sports versus how many do we spend on service to others? How does our offering of “Treasure” to God’s church compare to how much we spend on coffee, alcohol, and leisure?
We all play the role of the innkeeper. Christ knocks at the door of our lives. He wants to come and stay with us. Do we have room? Which room will we offer?
Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth. Today Bethlehem receives Him who is ever seated with the Father. Today angels glorify in a manner fitting God the babe that is born. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, and good will among men. (Idiomelon hymn from Orthros of the Nativity, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
The lesson of the innkeeper: Our “inn” is our life. We have a choice to invite Christ in or not. We have a choice to offer Him the best room or the least. Christ knocks on the door of our inn. It is up to us to invite Him in.
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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