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No Room in the Inn

We all know the story…
Mary and Joseph travelled for days from their home in Nazareth to Bethlehem to pay their taxes.  Mary was well along in her pregnancy, so riding on a donkey was difficult.  Joseph walked by her side the whole way, arriving in Bethlehem exhausted.  Both needed shelter for the night, but there was “no room in the inn.”  Actually, in a small town like Bethlehem, there probably was no ‘inn’ per se, but rather homes that would welcome a traveler to find shelter under their roof.  When Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, those places of hospitality had already found takers.  No one seemed to notice Mary’s desperate need, thus one door after another closed in their faces.  No room… no room… no room…
Do you ever wonder what you would have done if Mary and Joseph had come to your door that night?

That question moved from hypothetical to actual on Christmas Eve 2022 as a blizzard shrouded the city of Buffalo, NY.   The people of Buffalo pride themselves on being hardy winter folk, ready for any storm.  But on Christmas Eve a blizzard struck with such fury that travelers found themselves stranded on snow covered roads, unable to move.  Staying in your car risked freezing and venturing out in search of shelter risked being lost in the blinding snow.  Over 40 lives were lost as people faced that perilous dilemma.  Jay, a 27-year-old mechanic, ventured out into the storm that day to rescue a friend whose car was stuck in the snow.  But even his truck was no match for the storm, and before long he found himself also stuck in the snow.  For a while, he stayed in his truck.  But when night fell, he knew that he would not survive till morning without shelter.  He went door to door, asking to sleep on the floor of each home, but 10 families turned him away.  10!  No room… no room… no room.

When Jay returned to his car he was joined by Mary, a housekeeper at the local hospital, whose car had run out of gas.  Together, they found Antonio, an official with Homeland Security, whose car was also dead.  The two men ventured out in waist deep snow in search of shelter, finding an Elementary School nearby.  They broke a window, entered the school, found apples and cereal in the cafeteria, and blankets in the nurse’s office.  Once shelter was established, Jay and Antonio went back out in search of other stranded motorists.  Then they crossed the street to welcome homeowners who had lost their power.   What a wonderful twist to the Christmas ‘no room in the inn’ story- those who had found ‘no room’ offering safe-haven to others in need.  
What would you have done if Jay had come to your door that night?
In 165 CE, a plague spread rampantly throughout the Roman Empire.  Bishop Dionysius described the events in Alexandria: 
“At the first onset of the disease, sufferers were pushed away, 
thrown into the roads, and left to die among the unburied corpses 
that littered the street.  Even family members would disown their own 
flesh and blood, fearing the spread of the disease.”

The same heartless response came in 250 CE, when the plague hit again, killing 5,000 people a day.  In the 1300’s when the plague returned, people fled the city of Alexandria, leaving their sick behind to die.  Each time, fear moved and shaped the response of the people, all except for the Christians.  Historians note that the people would flee as each wave of plague decimated the cities, but the Christians would move in with food and basic care.  The simple gifts of food and water, the compassion of a loving touch, the shelter provided, all helped many to survive what would have been a death sentence.  Some historians estimate that the Christians’ acts of mercy reduced the mortality rate by as much as two-thirds.  Those early Christians risked their lives to create safe-haven for those in need.

On the night of the Buffalo blizzard, a van full of South Korean tourists were travelling from Washington, DC to Niagara Falls.  When their van became stuck in the snow, two of their group knocked on the door of Andrea and Alexander Compagna.  They asked for shovels to dig their van out of the snow drift.  The Compagnas knew that a few shovels would be no match against the blizzard, so instead they opened their home to the whole group.  Together they enjoyed a weekend of Korean food and a Buffalo Bills’ victory over the Chicago Bears.  One simple act of hospitality saved lives and created friends for life.

Jesus said, “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.” Jesus is the one for whom there was ‘no room’, who creates a safe-haven for us.  I wonder, who is at our door today who needs a little shelter from the storm?

With you hearing Jesus’ call to open the door,
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