MESSAGE BY PASTOR ROB INRIG FROM
BETHANY BAPTIST IN RICHMOND, BC.
Disclaimer: a Monologue sermon’s purpose is to move us past the familiar to help us see things with new eyes. Not new as in new truth but new as examining how God’s truth is to impact us. It’s also important to remember that we have crowded the Christmas story with some things we don’t know. For example, where 3 Magi are a part of the story. They are but Scripture does not tell us there were 3: 3 gifts, yes – 3 wisemen – no. Their number and names are based on tradition and Mary comes on a donkey. well perhaps, but not something we know. In the same way, we, in this Monologue, view events from the eyes of the Innkeeper but in truth, we aren’t told there is an Innkeeper; what we’re told is that ‘there was no room in the Inn’. So with this said, this morning’s sermon will take us into Scriptural truth, perhaps not exactly heard from this morning’s, Innkeeper but to be heard from the events and prophecies that tell us of the Messiah who came and who is to come.
Copyright 2023 Rob Inrig
So tell me, how was I to know? And even if I had known, what would you have had me do, tell another family to leave so these last minute arrivées - a young couple, admittedly with needs, could have their place? Should I have told Judah that he, his wife and 4 children had to give up their place so these two could have theirs? How about Benjamin and his tribe who, despite arriving days before this couple, were to be evicted due to some kindness I should show them while sending his family out on the street? Look, I wasn’t blind – do you think I didn’t know that their needs were great. Yet you, with all your fine talk about what should have been done, tell me how you would have acted so differently?
Oh, but I forgot, you didn’t – you doing the very same as their blood relatives had done – NOTHING - making no room for them, not even for a single night. Do you think they didn’t see what I saw? Do you think they didn’t know how close she was to giving birth? And yet, they turning them away, knowing the trouble she’d soon be in. But as far as I can tell, that didn’t seem to bother them too much, no more than it seemed to have bothered you.
So perhaps you’ll forgive me for getting upset because I’m singled out for not providing better lodging which you, obviously, would have done? Oh, but there I go again - I forgot, you didn’t.
Which is to say, don’t tell me I was unconcerned about her situation or that I was unaware how desperately they needed a place. It’s why I provided the space I did even though it was far less than what I would have liked. But tell me, what option did I have other than what I’d done?
So while you accuse, that it’s different for me because I operate an inn, can you honestly say my place is anything like what you’d find in Jerusalem or Jericho? Their inns of size, serving travellers who regularly come. But here, in Bethlehem? Hardly. This is the last place people come unless it’s a one night layover on a journey to somewhere else. You know as well as I, Bethlehem isn’t much of a destination for anyone. No business travel stop here, no gatherings for celebratory feasts. Sure, once the birthplace of King David but that was long ago, now Bethlehem offers little. So do you really wonder why my place is of a size no greater than for an occasional traveler? An occasional visitor is all any of us, have reason to expect.
So all of a sudden when Caesar Augustus demands that a census be taken, that I should have been in better readiness when you don’t have those same expectations for yourself?
Bethlehem’s numbers swelling beyond what our small hamlet could fill. Family homes stretched to the limit. Children who’d left years before, streaming back. Those who had searched out opportunity greater than what Bethlehem could provide, now returning to a place to which they vowed they’d never return. All because a census left them no option other than to comply. I mean you know it, Caesar’s demands are not something you ignore. Not if you want to keep drawing breath. And so yes, people coming to us in numbers that simply overwhelmed.
So perhaps now you better understand that the offer I made to this couple was the best I could do. Do you think that amongst all this chaos, all these demands, that I didn’t also have my family to care for as well as all the obligations on me to provide for guests and the animals brought with them? These demands stretched my capacity far greater than anything I’d experienced. So if you were to guess that I had concerns long before these two came, and yes let’s be honest – these might as well be three, you would be right. For this couple to come with their needs, on top of everything else I was dealing with ….
Oh I admit, Caesar’s census did mean added shekels, but don’t think I didn’t earn each and every one. But as far as this couple was concerned, I didn’t want their money. One look and I knew they needed to hang on to the little they had and despite what you might think, I made sure they did. Even with that, I was ashamed about the accommodations I offered and for that reason, I pointed them in the direction they should go and then shut my door, doing my best to stay distant. Yet with events to come, I wasn’t able to stay as distant as I wanted.
Though they wouldn’t have known it, God and I had a long talk about that. Well actually, I talked, He listened. I trying to justify - to Him and to myself - why I hadn’t done more. Giving birth to a child among the smells of dirt and manure is not something I’m proud of. No one should have to enter the world like that. A lamb’s birthing place? Sure, countless times like that but the birthing place of a mother’s God-given lamb, that just seemed so wrong. Yet if this had just been a mother giving birth, that would have been a story I would tell, then forget and move on from, but not this birth. The delivery of this child entering the world announced by the appearance of a heavenly choreographed, star explosion.
Listen, I’m not someone given to see gods and goddesses playing out their petulant jealousies and games in the heavens impacting earth. You know, like the Greeks who have gods everywhere, their gods usually wreaking havoc. I could never understand how they could believe such things but this story … this story I had just witnessed, almost seemed like one of their myths. Had I not seen what I had, I might have considered it as one of those but I had seen and, undeniably, in ways I did not yet understand, this story could not be explained in any other way than something God-proclaimed and heavenly announced.
So again, as you are hearing and yes, I would think, doubting, no one would ever accuse me of being someone who would see the world as the pagans do. I’m just a God fearing inn keeper, a simple man doing simple things. Living in a cause and effect world, where if animals are hungry, you feed them; if winds are strong, you tie things down. I see what I see and do what I do. It’s because of this that I couldn’t ignore or deny the things I had seen.
I tell you this again as assurance that I am not a mystic nor any big believer in heavenly signs that some point to as god announced omens. What I am saying is that I don’t look to find things that aren’t really there and then try to give some mysterious meaning to it all. But what I experienced ever since that young couple came wasn’t like that. There was no way to deny the strange things happening in the heavens.
And this strange wasn’t just something far off in the distance, it had come where I was, right here – a star unlike any star I had ever seen, doing what no star had ever done, here - incomprehensibly showcasing my, ‘why would you notice’ town. That in itself, beyond belief but more, it was center staging my ‘why would you notice’ place but not even my place – my animals’ place. Light streaming down - my place on show. There was no other way to describe it. As long as I had lived, no star had ever done anything like this. To come from nowhere and then as if arriving at a long awaited destination, fixing itself, anchored nights on end, streaming its light downward on this dirty, animal marked, animal populated place where Id sent these two.
When this star appeared, it seemed like just a one off curiosity but then there was another heavenly curiosity we would see. A very different spectacle from the one hovering over Bethlehem but a spectacle just the same. That light appeared on a hillside some distance from where I stood. Its appearance like another sudden light explosion. Its radiance, brilliant, but not from high above the earth, not light trailing from a falling star or some constellation spectacular, but this light appearing far closer to earth, not characteristic of what you’d expect to see with stars, more like celestial bodies gathered together as if called on assignment. And as odd as it may sound, this light amplified with music.
Had everything ended there as something to be looked on, it would have been reason enough to know that God had spoken in a very special way. But it hadn’t ended there. In many respects, it seemed that what was witnessed was only the beginning. Like an introduction, the opening act of a much greater play that was to follow. This play, a story announced in the heavens but acted out on earth.
And to this drama, as if on cue, they came and with speed. Clouds of white not in the skies but billowing herds on earth. Hundreds of sheep coming my way but not guided as you would expect but being driven as if on mission. Their voices sounding out as if in protest of the speed they were being made to move. Their shepherds not content to let the sheep set their own pace. Without question, these shepherds moving in haste. Their destination seemingly marked out, coming toward me. Their voices excited and loud. Voices almost incoherent. Exuberant actually. Celebratory. Making it clear, there was nothing leisurely about what they had in mind. And then as they came close - all the voices of men and beasts - suddenly stopped as they drew near to my stable framed in light. The bleats and the shouts muted as if in holy hush at what they’d come to see.
Had I not gone out to see what they had come to see, I would have missed the most significant event the world had ever known, the most significant event the world would ever know. And all this taking place in a setting no one would ever expect to look.
For the longest time I didn’t put together what I was looking at. Oh I don’t mean missing the obvious - of the things of which I have just spoken. Those were impossible to miss. After all, the heavens just don’t do what I’ve described. What I’m talking about is missing the things you do see but not seeing what is there to see. Oh I understand, that makes no sense, sounding more like gibberish - your conclusion to think me a fool. But the truth is, many things aren’t really seen with our eyes, they are seen with our heart. Only when our heart sees, do our eyes truly see. Without that, our seeing is limited by what we understand, by what we comprehend.
But when what’s before you is beyond understanding, it is so easily pushed aside because it doesn’t make sense. Take it from me, I know because that’s what I had done. Nothing heard or seen this night made sense. As if the things told me, possibly could make sense. Like what the shepherds said about an angelic choir and news about some virgin giving birth. As if. Foolish things, spoken by foolish people. No wonder some considered shepherds to be unreliable sources, their testimony not even allowed in court. And yet, weren’t some of our greatest prophets like Abraham and David, shepherds? Hadn’t our ancestors from which we had our roots, done the same?
You know what’s amazing, how you can come so close to something and then moving on as if what you’d witnessed had never occurred. Which, not understanding, is what I did.
Not knowing what to think of everything that had happened, I busied myself with things that had to be done, supplies that needed to be bought, obligations that had to be met, mouths that needed to be filled. break Video – Way in a Manger 2:49 – 3:24
So not understanding what I had seen, I buried myself in busyness – tending to my clientele’s needs, making certain I had enough supplies to see me through the weeks for those who had chosen to stay on longer than what registering for the census required. Mindless busyness was easier to do when my 3 guests who had disrupted my life so much, moved on. And with that, as much as it was possible, I moved on as well, doing my best not to think about the events witnessed over the days and weeks that followed. Don’t get me wrong, not for a moment had I denied something very special had happened. And I could not deny God had to have been in what I’d seen. But what God was doing was beyond anything I could make sense of. And with that, I tucked that night and those events into the background, which is where I had intended to leave things. But that was not to be.
The horrific had seen to that. Pounding hooves, pounding doors and pounding hearts. Horrific that had forced everything I had shoved into the background to drive things into the foreground. The horrific that gave no answer to all our whys? that were shouting loud. No answer to all the whys? that were screaming through tears.
Jeremiah’s prophecy of weeping in Ramah not some time to come but descending upon us now like a violent storm. Wails of grief unlike anything ever heard. Depths of evil beyond anything that can be explained. A massacre of innocents, slaughtered by the sword. Little boys only days from taking their first steps. Some, are only days from drawing their first breath. How does anyone justify brutality like this? How does anyone conceptualize something like this? When I first heard reports, I thought anything this barbaric had to have come from the hands of the Romans, once more using violence and fear to keep the citizenry in line. Yet something like this savagery seemed even beyond them.
As great as the light we had experienced only a short time before, seemingly nothing compared to the darkness that had come upon us. A darkness we knew would not lift for a long time to come. And for some, a darkness that gave no hope of ever being lifted.
It was during this time, other reports came that caused me to wonder. These reports were spoken with a sense of hope about the birth of a king and inquiries made by some wise men from afar. As told, they were ones who had studied the stars and because of what they had witnessed in the heavens, they had come inquiring about this king. Something about the hope spoken of felt like it was mocking the grief engulfing us. How do you entertain hope in a time of such wickedness? Which meant my first thought was to spit at what this latest report was to mean. What king? Israel had long been without any king worthy to be praised. No David’s, no Solomon’s, no Josiah’s. And our latest king was no king at all – just a ‘what’s in for me’ pretender under which we now lived. So as far as yet another king to come, we’re likely better off without one.
But as I thought on what this latest report meant and reflected on what I’d witnessed months before, the accounts were beginning to align. Which meant those events I had pushed away into the background could no longer stay there. The implausible messages of a virgin giving birth witnessed in my stable not as implausible as I had once believed and undeniably, that birth was connected to the horror of grief around me. That night and these actions were about the arrival of a King. It was about a kingdom and His rule. This savagery wasn’t the work of the Romans, it was Herod’s doing, Rome’s appointee as ruler of the Jews.
The atrocities experienced, the wailing in Ramah that the prophet Jeremiah had spoken about, had nothing to do with some enemy oppressor from outside Israel, it came from a brutal oppressor within who wanted a child killed.
His actions, the paranoia of a terrified man who was afraid another had come as a rightful claimant to Israel’s throne. So in Herod’s world, the solution was both simple and swift - end the child, end the threat.
Not that the brutality of his actions surprised him. Herod was no stranger to acts of brutality against anyone he suspected to be against him. Three of his sons, as well as his favourite wife, killed because he suspected them of treason. And those just a few who had their lives taken, among them the high priest he playfully drowned and several uncles and cousins he had killed.
Caesar Augustus had it right when he said of him, I would rather be Herod’s pig than his son.
Even as Herod was nearing the end of his life, his evil had not abated. On his death bed he ordered all Jewish leaders in the land to be imprisoned in the Hippodrome, situated just below his palace. When death finally came, those imprisoned were to be killed. When his wife asked why, he said, When I die the Jews are going to rejoice, so I want to give all Israel something to cry about. This was the nature of the man.
But a greater evil lurked underneath that was fuelling Herod’s fear. Its fear wasn’t insurrection, it was incarnation. A King comes in the flesh. A King, Herod thought had come to claim a throne.
And it was at this that I finally began my journey to truly understand that all the spectacles I had witnessed, all the incredible I’d been told hadn’t been spectacular, they had been amazing!
This child hadn’t come to claim a throne, He had come to bring a Kingdom. An entirely new Kingdom, looking forward to a promise of an entirely new and different world. This child, God Himself - come in flesh. With that, the voices of the prophets began to speak, as I poured through them, piecing together the things I’d seen, the things I’d not understood.
What caused me to look beyond the horror, began almost by accident, strangely enough because of what I overheard two of the religious say as they journeyed on their way to Jerusalem. They made no attempt to hide their desire to be far away from this place, even laughing at what they considered, the absurdity of what Micah, the prophet spoke of, But you Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me One who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times 5:2.
But in what they considered absurdity, I’d witnessed, spotlighted by God, the very thing Micah spoke of. That in my small place, my small stable, a king was born. Though I never understood it at the time, I’d been witness to something far greater than even that.
The massacre of the innocents and the words of those men put me on the path of doing more than just wondering about that night. There was no doubt, the killing of these small infants, in this area and of this age was targeted. My first thought was, had the baby born in my stable been one of those over whom His mother now wept? My next thoughts were fr more bewildering - could be that the birth of that child was the reason all these mothers now wept? That this child was the one for whom Herod searched?
As I thought on this, I was directed to something Hosea said, Out of Egypt I called my Son. Hosea 11:1. Nothing about that made sense until I heard something later reported by Matthew that these young parents had been warned by an angel that they and their infant child were to flee to Egypt because Herod wanted to destroy their son. That brought some comfort that the young child I had seen, had not been killed in this bloodbath. But in what Hosea had said, something even greater was said – that God hadn’t just called their son, He had called His Son.
Hearing that drove me to know more, much more about what happened that night. And what I learned, all come together like ripped pieces of parchment placed together, assembling themselves into a picture that was hard to deny. A picture whose focus wasn’t on a mother and her child but the focus, clearly on the child. Each piece was written hundreds of years apart, not conclusive by itself but together? … well, you be the judge.
Like Moses speaking of Messiah who would be born of a woman Gen 3:15. At first glance that fragment, born of a woman, seemed like a worthless throwaway. After all, how was this different from every child yet Isaiah added his ripped piece to the picture – born of a virgin, His name Emmanuel Isaiah 7:14. Together these pieces started leading me toward an incomprehensible - this one not just any child, born of man but in some mysterious way, this child, God with us born of God.
Only later was I able to put other pieces together like His birth and the, she who would bear Him coming from the line of Judah, yet another thing spoken of by Moses more than 1300 years earlier. And the destiny of this child was to be King of a kingdom that would never end, an eternal King, the heir to King David’s throne as the prophets, Samuel and Isaiah all spoke to. Gen 49:10, 2 Samuel 7:12-13, Isaiah 9:7
There was so much more that could be said, like His being a Nazarene Is 11:1, Mtth 2:23; that He would teach in parables Ps 78:1,2, that His ministry would begin in Galilee Is 9:1,2 and that He would do the miraculous which would seem to be in keeping with His birth Is 61:1.
God’s Promised One. That promise is written to the very letter of how He would be known. Those letters written large, none larger, none bolder than what Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 53 or what David wrote in Psalm 22, prophesies that in time would prove to be undeniably accurate, undeniably true.
Like I said, so much more, chief among them things which would be known later, of which, at this time I would rather not speak. Those, I will leave for now, they bring about a completely different incomprehensible of a magnitude that I find almost impossible to speak. Of rejection and cruelty. Of evil.
Of a different type of horrific. A horrific that for the longest time wouldn’t just rip the parchment into pieces but a horrific that by all evidence, would destroy the picture altogether. Everything hoped for - destroyed. Everything believed in - forever lost. A child born. A child was taken.
And then out of that horrific, the appearance of something far greater than the best of hopes ever hoped. God’s child King whose life will never be taken – only given so we might live.
That Hope made first appearance in my little place then, in ways unimaginable, reappeared after Hope had died. And now? – all of us awaiting His glorious appearance that is yet to come!
For unto us, a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of His government and peace, there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever Is 9:6,7
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