By Steven Norris

     He is the most famous character from the Nativity that shows up in many of our pageants, but fails to make an appearance in any of the four gospel accounts. Obviously, I am referring to the innkeeper. “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” If there was an inn, there had to be an innkeeper, right?

     Maybe he is there because all good stories need a villain. The innkeeper is an easy target. Was he cold and heartless as he turned away the expectant mother? “No room here!” Maybe, however, it was more like Frederick Buechner imagines, when he writes:

     “Do you know what it is like to run an inn—to run a business, a family, to run anything in this world for that matter, even your own life? It is like being lost in a forest of a million trees, and each tree is a thing to be done. Is there fresh linen on all the beds? Did the children put on their coats before they went out? Has the letter been written, the book read? Is there money enough left in the bank? Today we have food in our bellies and clothes on our backs, but what can we do to make sure that we will have them still tomorrow? A million trees. A million things. Until finally we have eyes for nothing else, and whatever we see turns into a thing.”

     It sounds less villainous than pragmatic and realistic. We know the feeling.

     This year, I have encouraged our church to consider spending a little less on the materialism and consumerism of the holiday in order to give more to those in need. More specifically, we’ve adopted a project that is working to build a shelter for homeless veterans right here in Spalding County.

     It is a tragedy that we have men and women in our community who have served their country with honor, but have struggled to reintegrate into civilian life. It is an understandable tragedy that addiction and substance abuse is so high among this population. It is unthinkable that many of them are not able to receive the veterans’ benefits that they earned because they do not have a permanent address.

     A project is in the works to develop a shelter for veterans that will help to address some of these needs. Partnering with other local agencies to provide substance abuse counseling, job training, mentoring, and temporary shelter, it seeks to provide a path to restoration and independence. Instead of hearing, “There’s no room at the inn,” the hope is that these veterans might experience the grace and hospitality modeled on the example of Jesus.

     One hundred percent of our Christmas Eve offering will be going to support this much-needed work. Maybe you would consider asking how you are “making room in the inn” this Christmas as we seek to reflect the Kingdom of God in Griffin and Spalding County. Merry Christmas!