You Can Have My Room
The Rev. Jon Roberts
Calvary Episcopal Church
Indian Rocks Beach, FL
1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirin′i-us was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 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 in the inn.
And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!”
No room in the Inn, Don Ryan, 2017
“For years now, whenever Christmas pageants are talked about in a certain little town in the Midwest, someone is sure to mention the name of Wallace Purling.
Wally's performance in one annual production of the Nativity play has slipped into the realm of legend. But the old-timers who were in the audience that night never tire of recalling exactly what happened.
Wally was nine that year and in the second grade, though he should have been in the fourth. Most people in town knew that he had difficulty keeping up. He was big and awkward, slow in movement and mind.
Still, Wally was well liked by the other children in his class, all of whom were smaller than he, though the boys had trouble hiding their irritation when Wally would ask to play ball with them or any game, for that matter, in which winning was important.
They'd find a way to keep him out, but Wally would hang around anyway—not sulking, just hoping. He was a helpful boy, always willing and smiling, and the protector, paradoxically, of the underdog. If the older boys chased the younger ones away, it would be Wally who'd say, "Can't they stay? They're no bother."
Wally fancied the idea of being a shepherd in the Christmas pageant, but the play's director, Miss Lumbard, assigned him a more important role. After all, she reasoned, the innkeeper did not have too many lines, and Wally's size would make his refusal of lodging to Joseph more forceful.
And so it happened that the usual large, partisan audience gathered for the town's yearly extravaganza of crooks and creches, of beards, crowns, halos and a whole stageful of squeaky voices.
No one on stage or off was more caught up in the magic of the night than Wallace Purling. They said later that he stood in the wings and watched the performance with such fascination that Miss Lumbard had to make sure he didn't wander onstage before his cue. Then the time came when Joseph appeared, slowly, tenderly guiding Mary to the door of the inn. Joseph knocked hard on the wooden door set into the painted backdrop. Wally the innkeeper was there, waiting. "What do you want?" Wally said, swinging the door open with a brusque gesture. "We seek lodging." "Seek it elsewhere." Wally spoke vigorously. "The inn is filled." "Sir, we have asked everywhere in vain. We have traveled far and are very weary." "There is no room in this inn for you." Wally looked properly stern. "Please, good innkeeper, this is my wife, Mary. She is heavy with child and needs a place to rest. Surely you must have some small corner for her. She is so tired." Now, for the first time, the innkeeper relaxed his stiff stance and looked down at Mary. With that, there was a long pause, long enough to make the audience a bit tense with embarrassment. "No! Begone!" the prompter whispered. "No!" Wally repeated automatically. "Begone!" Joseph sadly placed his arm around Mary and Mary laid her head upon her husband's shoulder and the two of them started to move away. The innkeeper did not return inside his inn, however. Wally stood there in the doorway, watching the forlorn couple. His mouth was open, his brow creased with concern, his eyes filling unmistakably with tears. And suddenly this Christmas pageant became different from all others. "Don't go, Joseph," Wally called out. "Bring Mary back." And Wallace Purling's face grew into a bright smile. "You can have my room."
Some people in town thought that the pageant had been ruined. Yet there were others—many, many others—who considered it the most Christmas of all Christmas pageants they had ever seen.”
The story of the Nativity certainly tells about God, who loved the world so much, He gave us His only begotten Son, that whosoever shall believe in Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting night.
The meaning of Christmas is twofold. It is about God and it is also about us. Whenever we believe this is a simple tale about a young couple, pregnant and no place to go except a barn; Whenever we believe the story was exaggerated by the reference of angels appearing; Whenever we believe Jesus was just another baby; Whenever we believe God does not appear anymore or never; We just hung a “No Vacancy” sign on the door. God came into the world in order that we may live. What a gift. Perhaps this ruins the story for you, and perhaps it makes it more Christmas than ever.
[On this night, we also celebrate the 200th anniversary of the familiar tune, “Silent Night” composed by Franz Gruber on the words written by Joseph Mohr in Austria in 1818. We hold the silence, the holiness in light of being surrounded by anything but all that is calm and bright.] [9pm Candlelight Service]
We are the Marys and Josephs, the Shepherds and Wise Men, and we may even be the Wallace Purlings, the Innkeeper, who changes their attitude; who opens themselves to the miracle of life once more. It’s not every day we get to witness the birth of a baby. This one is different because by his birth, you are provided more room to live than you can hardly imagine. Tonight, the Eve of Christmas, don’t turn him away. Open yourselves to the love of Christ who asks to visit if you only would say, “Wait, you can have my room.”