Kirk urges parishioners to “forgive” innkeeper


By Cara Sulieman

THE CHURCH of Scotland is calling on people to give the Bethlehem innkeeper a chance and to stop the “bad press” he has been getting for the past 2,000 years.

The Kirk said that he has been unfairly blamed for refusing Mary and Joseph a room when his inn was fully booked – and that he did his best by letting them stay in the stable.

Rev James Martin defended the hotelier in this month’s Life and Work magazine – asking for him to be given a “second chance”.

And he has the support of more senior members of the church, who are asking parishioners to spare a thought for the overlooked player in the nativity.

“Not easy”

Rev Martin wrote: “Usually in school nativity plays, the moment when the innkeeper turns away the unborn son of God, when his mother needed a bed the most, is an uncomfortable one. But the truth is that the innkeeper is not the bad guy.

“Far from being heartless, he’s the one who went the extra mile and looked after these unannounced strangers in need. He provided sanctuary for the newborn Jesus even though it was not easy to do.

“We should try to be a bit more like the innkeeper when it comes to strangers in need who come to our shores, especially children.

“He was physically exhausted after a long day and close to the end of his tether. He found himself summoned to the door late at night to find a pair of stragglers seeking accommodation.

“How reasonable is it to think that the innkeeper should somehow have made space for this unknown couple, even if it meant disturbing existing guests and losing goodwill, along with present and future custom?

“He could not have had the slightest inkling that the unborn baby he was turning away was the son of God.

“How many of us, finding ourselves in that situation, would have acted any differently than he did? Why then should we judge him harshly?”

“Second chance”

The Reverend said he wrote the piece to encourage people to emphasize rather than condemn.

He said: “I hope to be able to persuade people to change their view on the innkeeper, or at least to soften it.

“Hopefully, I can encourage people to say, ‘I’m going to give this fellow a second chance’”

But Rev Alex MacDonald, of Free Church of Scotland, said there was no point in defending the innkeeper as he is a fictional character.

He said: “The innkeeper isn’t mentioned directly in the bible at all, so all the rest is surmise and guesswork.

“All it says in Luke’s Gospel is that Jesus was laid in a manger because there was no room for him in the inn.”

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