by Father Andrew Strobl
I have never seen a Nativity display with an innkeeper depicted.
Animals, shepherds, the Magi, angels, Jesus, Mary and Joseph are all there, but no innkeeper. Based on the Gospel accounts, it comes as no surprise for the innkeeper to be absent. The innkeeper did not accommodate the Holy Family so Our Lady gave birth to Our Lord outside the inn.
As the Evangelist Luke described, “She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Lk 2:7).
The challenge for us today is to be more accommodating than the innkeeper. It sounds good to be welcoming and hospitable at Christmas. However, unless we are intentional about welcoming our neighbor this Christmas, we might resemble the innkeeper more than a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Here’s a brief examination about hospitality this Christmas:
1) Have I prayed and sacrificed for my neighbor’s return to Christ this Christmas?
2) Have I refrained from snide comments or jokes about “Christmas and Easter Catholics”?
3) Have I invited anyone to an Advent penance service or Christmas Mass?
4) Am I willing to sacrifice and go to a less convenient Christmas Mass time so
my neighbor can be better accommodated?
5) If able, will I select a parking spot furthest away from the church so my neighbor can have the closer spot?
6) Do I look forward to greeting unfamiliar faces in the gathering area?
7) Will I move to the center of the pew without being prompted by an usher or choose to stand so my neighbor can sit?
8) Do I plan on thanking God after holy Communion for the larger crowds at Christmas Mass?
Intentional hospitality is a mark of authentic discipleship. As our first pope explained, “The end of all things is at hand. Therefore, be serious and sober
for prayers. Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Pt 4:7-10).
Pope Francis maintains the call to intentional hospitality. In his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), he states: “The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.” May we welcome our neighbor this Christmas with more warmth than Jesus, Mary and Joseph received at the inn on the first Christmas. If the innkeeper had given his own room to the Holy Family, our Nativity displays would look much different today.