FIRST-PERSON: The villain of Christmas?
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) -- Among the "villains" of Christmas, so it seems, is the innkeeper. It's no wonder the little boy assigned that role in his church's Christmas program did so unwillingly. On the big night the boy stepped forward to speak his part, "I'm sorry. There is no room in the inn." Then he added, "But please come in for a cup of coffee."
The innkeeper seems to get more animosity than Herod, the real villain of Bethlehem. Having been an innkeeper years ago, I must admit, has colored my understanding. Potential guests sometimes argued with me about rooms, but if there's no room, there's no room.
The innkeeper really isn't a villain but an exemplary person of compassion. He did what he was trained to do -- help people. He gave what he had to Jesus. The barn at least offered shelter. It was better than having the expectant Mary camp outside.
We, too, can give what we have to the Christ of Christmas:
We can give our money. Some may argue that they don't have much, but that's not the issue. And it's true that God doesn't need our money since He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. But giving is a God-given way to keep our hearts warm.
There is a natural illustration in Israel. The Sea of Galilee is teeming with life, pouring this life south through the Jordan River to the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is dead because nothing flows out -- it constantly receives.
We're either Sea of Galilee people or Dead Sea people.
We can give our words. If Christ is Lord of our lives He must be Lord of our tongues too.
A counselor once told of a counselee who grew up feeling worthless because her father's most oft-spoken words to her as a child were "You are stupid." It's hard to imagine a father saying this, but it's hard to imagine in our saner moments that we speak cruel words to others -- words that can sting and scar.
One lady had it right when she said she "tasted" every word before speaking.
We can give service. All of us have gifts we can use in the service of Christ. We may not preach like the apostle Peter or pray like the apostle Paul. We may not sing or play a musical instrument. But there's some ministry we can do for the glory of God.
Consider what Methodist evangelist Sam Jones (1847-1906) used to say: If he could have religion in any part of his body, he wanted it in his right arm so that he could do something definite for Christ.
Michael J. Brooks is an adjunct professor for New Orleans Baptist Seminary's extension center in Birmingham, Ala., and distance learning instructor for Judson College in Marion, Ala. He also is the bivocational pastor of Pine Flat Baptist Church in Suttle, Ala.