One most favorite visit in my adult life was one which happened each year at Christmas. In those days, Kathy and I would load up the Honda Civic station wagon with five kids and bundles of presents and head out across town to Decatur to my Mother and Dad’s house. Christmas Eve was usually a cold night and as we pulled up you could smell the aroma of a fire that awaited us behind the front door. As we made our way toward the entrance, like clockwork each year the door would open and my Dad, with his pipe adding to the aroma of that from the fireplace, would greet us; his face beaming with delight. “Come into my house!” he would exclaim. The rest of the evening would be filled with wonderful food, conversation and storytelling, and presents to open. But the thing that I most remember was the door opened wide and his greeting, fueled with the love of his family; it just overflowed out of him.
In 1968, a young Presbyterian minister and writer, Frederick Buechner wrote a sermon entitled “The Birth.” It was also made into a live television play in which the actor, Edward G. Robinson portrayed the Innkeeper who turned Mary and Joseph away and led to the birth of Jesus in a cave stable near the Inn. In the monologue of the Innkeeper, Robinson talks a lot about how encumbered he was running an inn, that indeed was full. His message is directed at people in the world who can identify with the running of a small business, or a family or even one’s own life. He seeks to find empathy for his being bogged down in a million things to do; directing his guests, changing linens, providing meals, and chopping wood for the fireplaces.
The innkeeper concludes by saying, “So when the baby came I was not around. I don’t know if I even heard anything, but this I do know. All your life long you wait for your own true love to come, your heart’s desire. So how am I to say it? When he came, I missed him.”
In all of our million things to do in this season, may we find ourselves first making time to open wide the doors of our hearts. May then the Christ child be born again to dwell in our lives in Grace and Peace! Amen.