By: Steve Wilmot
Sometimes it’s a glance through the rearview mirror that reveals missed opportunities. At the time, they didn’t seem earth shattering. But now in retrospect, you realize what pivotal moments they were.
It must have been like that for the innkeeper the night Jesus was born. He’s only mentioned once in the Bible — in Luke 2.7. He was the guy who turned away the divine couple “because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Joseph and Mary came to Bethlehem after a long, torturous journey from Nazareth. Mary, pregnant and possibly in the early stages of labor, was desperately tired as night fell.
With a sudden influx of visitors to Bethlehem because of the census ordered by the Roman emperor, the inns were fully booked by the time they arrived in Bethlehem. They were too late. Now there was no room in any inn to be found.
We don’t know how many doors Joseph knocked on. We don’t know how earnestly he pled with each innkeeper to give them a room. But at each place, they were turned away.
Eventually they found a barn where they could rest for the night, only to have Mary go into labor and deliver Jesus. The Savior of the world. God in human flesh. The Most Important Person ever born.
What if the innkeeper had known who this Child in Mary’s belly was when Joseph came knocking at his door that day? Even though he was full, don’t you think he would have made room? Somehow?
Might he have kicked someone out to make room for these honored guests? Don’t you imagine he kicked himself the next morning when he discovered that the long-awaited King had been born, and he hadn’t found him a room to be born in? A missed opportunity.
What opportunities have you missed because you didn’t recognize their importance in the moment? That’s the problem, isn’t it? We don’t know how pivotal a decision or action is until later.
You give in to temptation, thinking it’s no big deal. Only later do you realize it was the first step in a series of steps that led you into an addiction.
Now you find yourself trapped with no way out — all because you gave in to a temptation you didn’t think was all that serious. What would you give now to have that opportunity back and do it differently?
In your rush to get your husband out the door to work, you forget to give him a kiss and say, “I love you.”
You don’t even give it a thought. But he suffers a massive heart attack and never comes home. What would you give now to have that opportunity back?
You know you are partly to blame for a conflict with a friend, but you refuse to say, “I’m sorry” until she does. Now your friendship is over for the rest of your life. What would you give now to have that opportunity to patch things up back?
You have a friend who needs Jesus, but you keep putting off talking to him. You tell yourself you’ll have time later, but later never comes because he dies without knowing Jesus. What would you give now to have that opportunity back?
Over your lifetime, you’ve missed countless opportunities mostly because you didn’t recognize they were turning points in your life or the lives of others around you.
If only you’d known, you’d have done things differently. You’d have paid attention. You’d have taken the time. You’d have done it now, not later.
The innkeeper wasn’t the only one who missed the significance of that night in Bethlehem so long ago. All the other innkeepers did, too. So did everyone else in the city.
They snoozed through the whole thing and missed Jesus’ birth while they slept. The innkeeper had no room in his hotel for the Savior of the world. Bethlehem had no room in their hearts for their King.
Missed opportunities you know they’d do differently after the fact if they only could. What about you? You can’t correct those costly mistakes now, but you can vow you won’t repeat those missteps in the future.
So… If you know someone who needs Jesus, talk to them now. If you bump into people who need a hug or a kind word or a smile, give it to them now.
if you’ve neglected your family, make time for them now. If you’ve procrastinated to give your heart to Jesus, do it now. Don’t wait. There is no better time than now.
Give yourself, your family members, and your friends a wonderful gift this Christmas — seize every opportunity to do what really matters. It will benefit others in ways you can’t imagine, and it will enable you to live a life with fewer regrets.
Steve Wilmot is a former Edgerton, Ohio area pastor who now seeks “to still bear fruit in old age” through writing. He is the author of seven books designed to assist believers to make steady progress on their spiritual journey.