The Dilemma of Belief!

The Inn Keeper’s Dilemma, part III of the Christmas Dilemma series by

Luke 2:1-7

Belief necessitates action on our part—whether that means change in our values, belief system, or behavior; or in seeing Jesus in “the other.”  Encountering the incarnate Jesus, God’s Son in human flesh means we can never be the same.  

The Dilemma of Belief.  

The dilemma of belief sounds like an oxymoron to me.  The miracle of belief, the wonder of believing, those sound good.  They make sense.  But the dilemma of belief?  

Belief, when it is genuine and comes from the heart and cannot remain mere intellectual assent.  The type of belief that God initiates in us through the power of the Spirit—hence the miracle of belief—requires action.  The Apostle Paul has a term, or rather a phrase for this, “the obedience of faith” (cf. Romans 1:5 & 16:26).  Faith, belief, requires a response from us.  If we really believe the message of Jesus’ incarnation, His life, death and resurrection on our behalf, we cannot remain neutral.  

Looking at the text.

Luke takes us to the historical anchor for Jesus’ birth narrative.  It happens at a specific time and place in history.  Augustus was the Roman Emperor.  Quirinius was the Governor of Syria overlooking Nazareth and Bethlehem in Palestine where Jesus is born.  Luke even records the motivation for this event.  It is the first registration for taxation.  Joseph and Mary, despite Mary’s condition were forced to travel approximately 100 miles on foot, albeit with the help of a donkey.    God was acting in and through history bringing about the fulfillment of the prophecy of where Jesus would be born (Micah 5:2).

They were not alone.  There were a lot of people on the road doing the same thing.  Everyone was forced to go to their ancestral home in order to register for the taxation.

Thieves would be lurking in the shadows waiting for opportunities to steal from hapless travelers and victims.  It also means the population for the ancestral cities swelled with outsiders so that finding a place to eat and rest was nigh unto impossible.  They didn’t have Hotel 6’s or Holiday Inn Expresses or McDonalds Restaurants in those days.  The had to depend on friends, relatives or others to open their homes.

The Skit Guy dramatization of the Inn Keeper’s Dilemma is fun, but also thought provoking.  What do you do when presented with a holy moment—when you know something special and unusual is taking place?  Ignore it?  What if your wife won’t let you?  What if your belief in something holy is happening right there in front of you?  You might just have to do what you can even if it seems inadequate!  

So the Inn Keeper scratches his head, and finally comes up with an unusual solution.  The barn.  The animals can help keep you warm and the feeding trough can make a make shift cradle.  My wife has some extra clothes and bedding you can use for the little tyke.

And, what a surprise to have the shepherds showing up in the middle for the night!  Boy were they glowing and happy.  Their excitement just added to the sense of wonder and holiness that permeated the night.

Consider today.  Where do you expect to see God on the move?  Where do you expect to find Jesus?  Mother Teresa would see Him in those she ministered to.  The lepers and the poor, people on the street.  Who do you see Jesus in?  The challenge is to have our eyes open, the eyes of our heart, to look with our ears and with our soul and to see Jesus in the most unlikely people.  

And, if we see Jesus in “the other,” how does that change the way we treat them?  If we see Jesus in the immigrant at our border, how does that change the way we treat them?  If we see Jesus in each other, how does that change the way we treat each other?  If we see Jesus in the one with whom we have just had an argument how does that change us?  How does it change them?  

The Inn Keeper’s Dilemma of Belief helps us to see that unexpected opportunities arise at unexpected times and in unexpected places to serve the Messiah, to serve Christ the Lord.

Lord, keep our eyes open.  Open our hearts to see You in each other.  Help us to respond with the obedience of faith.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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