The Baptist Testimony – Volume 53 – Number 11 – December 2007

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The Word Has It
“Strengthen me according to Your word,” Psalm 119:28
Ken Floyd
MARBC State Representative

December's Word: “Room”

“And she brought forth 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.” Luke 2:7

“Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem's home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.”
(“Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne,” Emily E.S. Elliott, 1836-1897)

We have entered perhaps the most celebrated and recognized season of the year worldwide. Even those who do not personally embrace Christianity participate in this year end observance of good will. This presents a special challenge for those of us who do embrace the Christ of Christmas and seek to clearly present the purpose for His coming into the world.

Several years ago Dr. William Brock, one of my friends and mentors who served as the State Representative for the Ohio Association of Regular Baptist Churches, shared the following story in a Christmas letter sent to the pastors of Ohio. He prefaced the story by sharing that this was one of his favorite stories associated with Christmas. After I read it, it became one of mine as well. I have enjoyed sharing this story regularly over the years in my messages and Christmas devotionals. I trust that it will be a blessing to you as you read it.

“Trouble in the Inn”
by Dina Donohue

For years now whenever Christmas pageants are talked about in a certain town in the Midwest, someone is sure to mention the name of Wallace Purling. Wally's performance in one annual production of the Nativity play has slipped into the realm of legend. But the old-timers who were in the audience that night never tire of recalling exactly what happened.

Wally was nine that year and in the second grade, though he should have been in the fourth. Most people in town knew that he had difficulty in keeping up. He was big and clumsy, slow in movement and mind. Still, Wally was well liked by the other children in his class, all of whom were smaller than he, though the boys had trouble hiding their irritation if the un-coordinated Wally asked to play ball with them.

Most often they'd find a way to keep him off the field, but Wally would hang around anyway – not sulking, just hoping. He was always a helpful boy, a willing and smiling one, and the natural protector, paradoxically, of the underdog. Sometimes if the old boys chased the younger ones away, it would always be Wally who'd say, “Can't they stay? They're no bother.”

Wally fancied the idea of being a shepherd with a flute in the Christmas pageant that year, but the play's director, Miss Lumbard, assigned him to a more important role. After all, she reasoned, the Innkeeper did not have too many lines, and Wally's size would make his refusal of lodging to Joseph more forceful.

And so it happened that the usual large, partisan audience gathered for the town's Yuletide extravaganza of the staffs and crèches, of beards, crowns, halos and a whole stageful of squeaky voices. No one on stage or off was more caught up in the magic of the night than Wallace Purling. They said later that he stood in the wings and watched the performance with such fascination that from time to time Miss Lumbard had to make sure he didn't wander onstage before his cue.

Then the time came when Joseph appeared, slowly, tenderly guiding Mary to the door of the inn. Joseph knocked hard on the wooden door set into the painted backdrop. Wally the Innkeeper was there, waiting.

“What do you want?” Wally said, swinging the door open with a brusque gesture. “We seek lodging.” “Seek it elsewhere.” Wally looked straight ahead but spoke vigorously. “The inn is filled.”

“Sir, we have asked everywhere in vain. We have traveled far and are very weary.”

“There is no room in this inn for you.” Wally looked properly stern.

“Please, good innkeeper, this is my wife, Mary. She is heavy with child and needs a place to rest. Surely you must have some small corner for her. She is so tired.”

Now, for the first time, the Innkeeper relaxed his stiff stance and looked down at Mary. With that, there was a long pause, long enough to make the audience a bit tense with embarrassment.

“No! Begone!” the prompter whispered from the wings.

“No!” Wally repeated automatically. “Begone!”

Joseph sadly placed his arm around Mary and Mary laid her head upon his shoulder and the two of them started to move away. The Innkeeper did not return inside his inn, however. Wally stood there in the doorway, watching the forlorn couple. His mouth was open, his brow creased with concern, his eyes filling unmistakably with tears.

“Don't go, Joseph,” Wally called out. “Bring Mary back.” And Wally Purling's face grew into a bright smile. “You can have my room.”

Some people in town thought that the pageant had been ruined. Yet there were others – many others – who considered it the most Christmas of all Christmas pageants they had ever seen.

Quite a touching story, isn't it? As I have read Wally's sincere invitation to Joseph and Mary throughout the years, it has always caused my voice to quiver and tears to collect in my eyes. Please remember during these busy days of preparation for special Christmas ministries, gift purchasing, tree trimming, and family gatherings that the most important aspect of Christmas is to be sure to invite Jesus to be the central part of your life and your observances.

Emily Elliott concluded the poem that is quoted at the beginning of this column with the invitation: “O come to my heart, Lord Jesus – there is room in my heart for Thee!” In referring to the purpose for Christ's coming at Bethlehem, John 1:12-13 shares, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” My friend, please make sure that this is true for you.

The joyful news and most precious gift of every Christmas season is – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17)

You have His Word on it! (KEF)

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