Sermon by Bernard Moss 10.45am
Ist Sunday of Christmas 2018, 30 December 2018
No room for them in the Inn
Don’t you just love school nativity services! You never quite know what to expect as eager parents and grandparents squash together on minute benches to witness their little stars.
There is always someone who sulks throughout the performance because he or she feels that being a docile sheep is well below their thespian talent level … inevitably one of the pretend lowing cattle treads on little angel Susan’s foot, causing tearful consternation. Bored and bewildered as to why he has to wear a tea towel, one of the shepherd picks his nose – well at least it’s his own nose which gains his enthusiastic attention! and Mary bless her can’t resist waving to great aunt Doris who bagged pride of place on the front row by arriving 30 minutes early.
But my favourite bit of all time was the arrival of Mary and Joseph at the inn— never sure whether we will get any ‘knock knock’ jokes in this year’s script, but it’s the innkeepers big moment – Joseph asks plaintively if there is a room spare for the night, and our jovial host beams with delight and proclaims – of course there is – come in, come in.!
Church history rewritten at a stroke!
But tradition has it that there was no room for them at the inn… and this phrase – no room at the inn – has become a powerful caption for the Christmas story
For it speaks of people in power unable or unwilling to find space or time for the dispossessed
It speaks of an unwillingness to share or to release a generosity of spirit for those in need.
And sometimes – yes – there are banners and placards which leave people in no doubt that they are not welcome here – wherever here happens to be – the whole recent history of the migrant crisis provides examples of this at national and transnational levels – there is no room in our inn for any more – sorry – we are full. Clear off and go somewhere else
Such sentiments also are to be found in some quarters when the political future of the UK is being debated… we do indeed face a deeply worrying few months ahead where our values and our capacity to engage in mature debate and to explore compassionate wisdom is going to be sorely tested. There is no room at the inn, some would have us believe
Sometimes however there aren’t any placards or the protest marches … it’s just that the status quo is powerful enough to do the job quite effectively thank you very much. It’s not so much that we are against certain groups… it’s just that we don’t always realise that there are hidden barriers… subtle messages that you know we don’t really have the space or time for you …
Sadly we know that the Christian Church has had its fair share of giving messages to people that there is no room – not really – in our inn. Or perhaps you can come in and be on the fringes, but when it comes to playing leading roles – when it comes to modelling best practice – when it comes to actively modelling what being truly inclusive really means – when to comes to having richly varied and powerful liturgy that really embodies what the broken bread and poured out wine means for the whole of humanity, then it’s a different story
Time and again there are people who feel that the real message being given is sorry and all that, but there is no room – no real room- for you in our inn
And then we come back time and again to the message of the angels and the dramatic truth of the incarnation.. God coming among us in Jesus Christ and saying there need be no barriers preventing my love and my forgiveness , my compassion and my justice taking root in your everyday lives…
That is the starting point and the end point
Admittedly, human nature has a deep flaw – a flaw which time and again becomes caught up in a selfish pursuit of me me me and what I want – what I can’t do – people I can’t accept . The massacre of the innocents is a powerful image of that mindset and worldview ( Matthew 2 v 16). But in God’s kingdom, there is no room for bigotry, hatred, discrimination and oppression.
In God’s kingdom of love and truth
In God’s kingdom of justice and compassion, of mercy and lovingkindness
There is always room because on the Cross, Jesus has made room
1,600 people came through our doors on Christmas eve for the crib services and our midnight communion – we thank God for this hospitality offered to anyone who wishes to receive it. BUT our challenge is to find ways of inviting them in time and time and time again to hear the good news – to respond to it-to live by it – and to rejoice in the generosity of spirit which flows through us as God’s precious gift.
Because the dramatic truth of Christmas is that that young innkeeper got it right!
No room at the inn ?– you’ve got to kidding – God’s mercy is as wide as can be –
of course you can come in……………….. and bring the others with you.AMEN.