When I was seven, our primary school put on a nativity play. I was excited because I thought for sure that I would be chosen to be Mary. All of my teachers knew that I went to church- I thought I had it in the bag. Imagine my disappointment when the roles were posted and I read that my class nemesis, Karey Gwenn, would be Mary; and I would be an “inn-keeper’s wife.”
An Inn-keepers wife? I didn’t even have any lines!
As rehearsals went on, I couldn’t hide my sadness from my mother. The night of the play I grumpily told her all about smug Karey, and Matthew Phillips, my inn-keeping husband, who chewed his jumper sleeve and never blew his nose. I wasn’t happy. Like any good mother would, Mom listened patiently until I was finished and then told me gently with eyes shining, “Oh Hollie! Did you know that you have the most important role of all in the nativity?” Intrigued, I shook my head. “Imagine your father and I owning that full inn. Do you think he’d notice that Joseph’s wife was ready to give birth? Would Dad even think of the stable we had in the back? The inn-keeper’s wife must have been the kindest woman. She probably softened her husband’s heart. She probably made the stable cosy, cleaned out the manger and shooed away the animals that usually sat there. Maybe she stayed with Mary, wiped her brow and held her hand when she struggled with the birth. Maybe she even prepared the swaddling clothes that would wrap the new-born child. If* the inn-keeper’s wife was really in the nativity story, what a special role she played: she made room for the saviour of the world!”
I pondered on my mother’s words as the play went on and we sang songs and watched Mary and Joseph ride their donkey to Bethlehem. I stood next to Matthew Phillips, just dreading the moment he’d say to Joseph, “there’s no room in the inn!” He mumbled out the line and before I could stop myself I cried out, “Inn-keeper, have you no heart!” I scolded my stage husband, and stood right in front of Karey Gwenn as I explained to the audience and the teachers who sat nervously by, that no matter how full the inn was, we could all make room for the son of God.
Neal A. Maxwell said, “Each of us is an innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus.” What kind of innkeepers are we? What fills our figurative inn? Who are our cherished guests? The prophet Gordon B. Hinckley said,
“My question to all of us is do we make room for [Christ] in our lives every day, not just at Christmas time? … Oh, that He will become a part of every decision, every rejoicing, every heartache. That he will live daily in your heart. That is my Christmas prayer for each of you.”
In His ministry, Jesus went about performing miracles- healing the sick, teaching, serving. His followers grew and grew, marvelling at His miracles, His simple and profound teaching. They followed because He was a good man, and He went about doing good. Finally, Jesus gets to the point- He tells them exactly why He is there, what His presence and His purpose meant in His Father’s plan. He was there to be a redeemer, and His sacrifice would change everything. The Law of Moses would be fulfilled, as was prophesied, and the world would acknowledge that sacrifice in a new and simple way. It was a big, most radical thing to teach. It was strange. It was mind-blowing. It did not fit in with what was popular and respected amongst the people in that day.
The reaction of this large crowd of disciples was murmuring: “This is an hard saying. Who can hear it?” – Who in their right mind can swallow what this man has to say? It’s confusing! It’s impossible! It’s new to us! Like the crowds that turned away from the Saviour in the pre-mortal life, so another crowd turned away from Jesus near Galilee.
From that time, many of His disciples went back and walked no more with Him. (John 6:66)
Jesus then turns to His apostles. To Peter He asks, what about you?
Will ye also go away?
What I love about Peter is that he represents everything I think God hoped a mortal, righteous disciple would be. His answer was not “Lord, I understand all that you have taught- I know it, I have a testimony of it, I have zero qualms with it, let’s do this.” Instead he replies,
Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.”
He simply replies with the only thing he does know- that he knows that Jesus is who He claims to be- Peter knows He is the literal son of God, come to relieve the world of sin and sorrow. He doesn’t understand the details and the how’s and why’s of what he has taught. He only knows that nowhere out there could he find more truth. He decides to stay. He chooses to make room for the Christ.
Today we’re witnessing a new and great exodus of the Saviour’s friends. Disciples turn to one another and once again agree, this is a hard thing! M. Russell Ballard said recently,
“It is no light thing to be a member of [the Church].”
It’s hard work. It’s often painful work. Slowly the justifications of the world creep into our lives, and our inn’s become crowded and bustling. Doors are closed, windows too, and many declare there’s simply no room in the inn. There’s no room for not knowing, there’s no room for faith without proof, there’s no room for that Christ who even at birth had no home. The Saviour himself observed,
‘Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head?’ (Luke 9:58)
What kind of inn-keeper are you? What- or whom- do you prepare a place for in your homes and hearts? Who is your most treasured guest?
President Monson said,
“In our busy lives, with ever so many others competing for our attention, it is essential that we make a conscious, committed effort to bring Christ into our lives and into our homes.”
Like Peter of old, may we ever give place to the Son of God; for no other guest can offer the same hope, truth and refuge that He can. He invites us,
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11:28)
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” (John 14:27)
I choose to consider the innkeeper and his [possible, probable?] wife, perhaps ashamed at the humility of their stable. Regardless, it was all the room they could afford; the only gift they could give, and still our Heavenly Parents permitted their only begotten to be born within those walls. Why do you think they did that? Like Peter of old, I testify that He is who He said He was; a King, a God, who volunteered to come to Earth, to be born in poverty; to live humbly, to live perfectly. No other guest is so humble as this Jesus Christ. I testify that what little we can give to our God, He has a way of graciously magnifying our efforts. When we make room for Christ, He will take hold of us and enlighten us. As we allow Him to become a part of every decision we make, every rejoicing, every heartache, our lives will be enriched and as Alma described, the gospel will become delicious to us- we will feel of its truth. For where else would we want to go? Who else would we ever want as our most honoured guest?