“No Room for Christ in the Inn”
by Charles H. Spurgeon (1862)
Edited, revised and adapted by William C. Neff (2014)
“And Mary brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
When the great census of Caesar Augustus required all descendents of the house of David to report to Bethlehem, the scanty accommodation of the little town would soon be exhausted. No doubt friends entertained their friends until their houses were all full, but Joseph had no such willing kinsmen in the town. There was a public inn, which was provided in every village, where free accommodation was given to travelers; this, too, was full. After all, Joseph and Mary came from a distance and had to travel slowly; so, the humble couple had arrived late in the day. The rooms within the great brick square were already occupied with families; there remained no better lodging, even for a woman about to give birth, than a stable for beasts of burden. The donkey’s stall was the only place where the child could be born; so, the King of Glory was laid in a manger– an animal’s feeding trough.
At this Christmas time it is good for us to reflect on that sight in the stable at Bethlehem, beholding the Savior of the world in a feeding trough, and pondering why there was no room for him in the inn.
First, it is clear that Jesus’ birth in a stable was intended to demonstrate his humiliation. He came, according to prophecy, to be “despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;” he was to be “without form or attractiveness,” “a root out of a dry ground.” Would it have been fitting for the man who was to die naked on a cross to be robed in kingly garments at his birth? The manger and the cross stand at the two ends of the Savior’s earthly life, and they prove to be fitting bookends to the story his life would tell. Throughout his life he is to wear peasant’s clothing; he is to associate with fishermen; the lowly are to be his disciples; the cold mountains are often to be his only bed; he is to say, “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head;” nothing, therefore, could be more fitting that his first bed should be an animal’s feeding trough.
By being laid in a manger he was declared to be the king of the poor. I believe it excited feelings of the most tender brotherly kindness in the minds of the shepherds, when the angel said—”This will be a sign unto you; you will find the baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” In the eyes of the poor, imperial robes excite no affection; a man in their own garb attracted their confidence. Workingmen cleave to a leader who knows their toils, sympathizes in their sorrows, and feels an interest in all their concerns. Great commanders have readily won the hearts of their soldiers by sharing their hardships and roughing it as if they belonged to the ranks. The King of Men who was born in Bethlehem was not exempted in his infancy from the common calamities of the poor; in fact, his circumstances were even worse than theirs! I think I hear the shepherds comment on the manger-birth, “Ah!” said one to the other, “then he won’t be like Herod the tyrant; he will remember the manger and feel for the poor. I feel a love for this poor, helpless baby! This baby is not like Caesar who tramples down our fields with his armies and slaughters our flocks to feed his friends. He is the poor man’s friend, the people’s King
Jesus birth in a lowly feeding trough is an invitation to the most humble to come to him. We might tremble to approach a throne, but we cannot fear to approach a feeding trough. Never could there be one more approachable than the baby Jesus. No soldiers were there to push poor visitors away; no public officials were allowed to turn away the poor widow or the man who begged for his son to be healed. The hem of Jesus’ garment was always trailing where sick folk could reach it, and he himself had a hand always ready to touch the disease, an ear to catch the faintest accents of misery. Jesus shined forth like the sun, everywhere casting rays of mercy on those in need.
Even as an infant, by being laid in a manger, he was set forth as the sinner’s friend. Come to him, you that are weary and heavily burdened! Come to him, you that are broken in spirit, you who are bowed down in soul! Come to him, you that despise yourselves and are despised by others! Come to him, beggar and prostitute! Come to him, thief and drunkard! See him sleeping in a feeding trough! Touch him! Gaze upon him! Bow your knee, and kiss the Son of God. Call upon him to be your Savior, for he puts himself into that feeding trough so that you may approach him. The throne of kings might awe you, but the manger of the Son of David invites you.
I think there was yet another reason why there was not room for Jesus in the Inn. The town’s public inn was a free place for travelers to stay. It was not like our hotels today where accommodation and provision must be paid for. In the early and simple ages of the world every man considered it an honor to entertain a stranger. As time went by and travelling became more common, many desired to get the help of their neighbors to lavish upon their guests great hospitality. As more time passed, one person was appointed in each town and village to carry out this purpose, and was expected to entertain strangers in the name of the rest. But, as the ages grew less simple, and the pristine glow of brotherly love cooled down, the town inn became a very stark place to stay. The building was formed in a simple block style with small rooms for the travelers. Below the floor there was room for animals to stay with a certain provision of water and straw for the cattle. The traveler could help himself, and he did not have to purchase admittance; it was free to all. In the same way, the Lord Jesus Christ was born in the inn’s stable in order to show how free he his to all those who come to him. The Good News of Jesus is proclaimed to every person, and shuts out none.
“None are turned away from Christ
‘xcept those who themselves exclude.
Welcome are the rich and polite,
as well as the poor and rude.
Though Jesus’ grace can save the prince,
the poor may take his share;
No mortal has a reason
to live his life in despair.”
With Jesus, class exclusions are unknown, and the privileges of caste are torn down. No forms of etiquette are required to enter a public stable. So, if you desire to come to Christ, you may come to him just as you are. You can come right now! Whoever has the desire in his heart to trust Christ is free to do it. Jesus is free to you. He will receive you; he will welcome you with gladness. To demonstrate this to us, the baby Jesus was cradled in a feeding trough.
We know that sinners often imagine that they are shut out. They allow their convicted conscience to accuse itself and deny the reception of God’s mercy. Dear friends, if God hasn’t shut you out, don’t shut yourself out! Until you can find it written in the Book that you cannot trust Christ; until you can point to a passage that says He is not able to save you, I suggest you take God at His word. The Bible says, “God is able to save them that come to Him through Jesus.” Take action on that promise; come to Christ, and you will find him free for the taking.
There is one more simple reason why Jesus was laid in a feeding trough; namely, it is the place where beasts of burden were fed. They were nothing special, and yet provision was made for them. In the same way, some men have become so brutal through sin, so utterly depraved by their lusts, that to their own consciences every thing man-like has departed. But even to men like that, the remedies of Jesus, the Great Physician, will apply. I believe our Lord was laid in the manger where beasts were fed in order to show that even beast-like men may come to him and live. The Master comes to the stable among the beasts and presents himself as able to save the vilest of the vile, and to accept the worst of the worst even now. Believe on him and he will make you a new creature.
It is interesting to note that the feeding trough where Christ was laid went back to being a feeding trough after Jesus was removed from it. It was only the presence of Christ that transformed the stable into something glorious. In the same way, if Christ were taken away from this world, it would go back to its former heathen darkness. Civilization itself would die out, at least that part of it which really civilizes man. If Christ were taken away from the human heart, those who claim kinship with angels would soon prove they are related to devils. For these reasons which I have mentioned, Christ was laid in a manger.
NO ROOM FOR JESUS
I have made a point that the baby Jesus was born in a stable’s feeding trough because there was no room for him in the Inn. But we should also note that there were other places where there was no room for Jesus.
The palaces of emperors and the halls of kings afforded the royal stranger no refuge. To be sure, there is seldom room for Christ in palaces! How could the kings of earth receive the Lord? He is the Prince of Peace, and they delight in war! He breaks their bows and cuts their spears in two; he burns their war-chariots in the fire. How could kings accept the humble Savior? They love grandeur and pomp, and he is all about simplicity and meekness. He is a carpenter’s son, and the fisherman’s companion. How can princes find room for a new-born king? Jesus teaches us to do to others as we would have them do to us, and this is a thing which kings would find very hard to reconcile with the cut-throat tricks of politics and the grasping designs of ambition. O rulers of the earth, I am hardly surprised that amid your glories, and pleasures, and wars, and councils, you forget the Anointed One, and cast out the Lord of All. There is no room for Christ among kings. Look throughout the kingdoms of the earth now, and with hardly and exception, it is still true—”The kings of the earth stand up, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed.” (Ps2) Not many great men in this life are chosen by God. State-chambers, cabinets, throne-rooms, and royal palaces, are about as little frequented by Christ as the jungles and swamps of India by the cautious traveler. He frequents cottages far more often than regal residences. There is no room for Jesus Christ in regal halls.
Perhaps Christ is more welcome in democratic societies? But in Christ’s day, there were senators and forums of political discussion; there were places where the representatives of the people make the laws. Was there no room for Christ there? Sadly, my brothers, there was none, and to this day there is very little room for Christ in parliaments. How seldom is religion recognized by politicians! Oh, yes, the state will consent to allow poor, tame, powerless religiosity– a lion with its teeth taken out, its mane all shaven off, and its claws all trimmed—yes, that may be allowed; but the true Christ and those that follow him and dare to obey his laws in an evil generation, what room is there for them? To embrace Christ and his gospel is criticized as “sectarianism,” and every attempt is made to rid it from public life. Who pleads for Jesus in the senate? Isn’t belief in Christ, under the name of sectarianism, the great terror of all parties? Who quotes his golden rule as a direction for prime ministers, or preaches Christ-like forgiveness as a rule for national policy? One or two will give him a good word, but if obeying Jesus was put to a vote, it will be many a day before the ayes have it. Parties, policies, place-hunters, and pleasure-seekers exclude the Representative of Heaven from a place among representatives of Earth.
Can room for Christ be found in what is called good society? Weren’t there people in Bethlehem that were very respectable, who kept themselves aloof from the common multitude; persons of reputation and standing? Couldn’t they find room for Christ? Ah! dear friends, it is too much the case that there is no room for Him in what is called good society. There is room for all the silly clubs by which men choose to associate themselves; room for the vain niceties of etiquette; room for frivolous conversation; room for the adoration of the body; room for setting up “this and that” as the idol of the hour. But there is too little room for Christ, and it is far from fashionable to follow the Lord fully. The advent of Christ would be the last thing popular society would desire. If you begin to talk about the things of Christ in many circles, you would be tabooed at once. “I will never ask that man to my house again,” so-and-so would say, “if he must bring his religion with him.” Partying and wealth, status and popularity, jewels and glitter, frivolity and fashion, all report that there is no room for Jesus in their houses.
But is there not room for him in the world or commerce? Ah! dear friends, how little of the spirit, life, and doctrine of Christ can be found here! The trader finds it inconvenient to be too scrupulous; the businessman often discovers that he can make a fortune if he loses his conscience. How many there are who tell lies– directly or indirectly. Almost every house you see for sale is advertized as “The cheapest house in London.” Surely, they can’t all be the cheapest! What exaggeration and falsehood! What cunning and sleight of hand! What would Jesus say if he read your marketing materials, or looked at your books, or attended your board meetings? Bankruptcy, swindling, and fraud are so abundant that in many cases there is no room for Jesus in the store, the shop, or the office.
Then there are the schools of the philosophers. Surely the lovers of high and lofty thoughts would welcome Jesus. No, dear friends; it is not so. There is very little room for Christ in colleges and universities– very little room for him in the seats of learning. How often learning helps men to raise objections to Christ! Too often learning is the forge where the nails are made for Christ’s crucifixion; too often human wit has become the craftsman who points the spear and pierces Jesus’ heart. We must say it– philosophy, falsely so called (for true philosophy, if it were handled rightly, would be Christ’s friend), has been mischievous with Christ; seldom does it serve his cause. A few with splendid talents– few of the erudite and profound have bowed like children at the feet of the Babe of Bethlehem, and have been honored in bowing there. But too many, conscious of their knowledge, stiff and stern in their conceit of wisdom, have said,—”Who is Christ, that we should acknowledge him?” They found no room for him in the schools.
But there was surely one place where he could go— the Sanhedrin, those who sat in the place of religious authority. But he found no shelter there either; in fact, it was there, his whole life long, that he found his most ferocious enemies. It was not the common multitude, but the priests who moved the people to say to Pilate, “Don’t give us this man, Jesus; give us Barabbas instead.” Surely there ought to have been room for him in the Church of his own people; but there was not. Too often church leaders become recognized and take on a sense of power and prestige, and, when they do, they leave little room for Christ. I am not alluding to any one church or denomination, but rather, take the whole sweep of Christendom. It is strange that when the Lord comes to his own, his own receive him not. Church leaders far too often prove themselves to be hired hands, interested in their own gain. They are not Christ’s shepherds, and they don’t love his sheep. This kind has always been the most ferocious enemies of our God and of his Christ.
NO ROOM IN THE INN
We have said that the local town inn was one place that should have had room for Jesus, but did not; and, so, he had to be laid in a manger. What can we find in modern times which stands in the place of the inn? Well, there is the public square– the place of public opinion and expression. In this free land, so to speak, men talk about what they think and what they like. You know there is toleration in this country for just about everything; that is, toleration for everything but Christ. Mention Jesus with any substantive assertions about him and you will discover that the persecuting spirit is alive and well. New words are invented to assist the persecution, of course– pretty words like “Sectarian.” Do you know “Sectarian” means? Judging from how it’s used, I’d say a sectarian is nothing more than a true Christian; a man who can afford to keep a conscience, and does not mind suffering for it; a man who, whatever he finds to be in that old Book, believes it, and acts upon it, and is zealous for it. I believe that men aimed at under the term, “sectarians,” are the true followers of Christ, and that the sneers and jeers and all the nonsense you are always reading and hearing, is really aimed at the Christian, the true Christian– only he is disguised and nick-named by the word “Sectarian.”
I wouldn’t give a penny for your belief in Christ– indeed, not even that much– unless you are sometimes be called “sectarian.” A zealous Christian will find as truly a cross to carry now-a-days as in the days of Simon the Cyrenian. If you will hold your tongue, if you will leave sinners to perish, if you will never endeavor to propagate your faith, if you will silence all witnessing for truth, if, in fact, you will renounce all the attributes of a Christian, if you will cease to be what a Christian must be, then the world will say, “Ah! That’s great; this is the religion we like.” But if you will believe firmly and let your belief form your life and actions, and if your belief is so precious that you feel compelled to spread it, then at once you will find there is no room for Christ in the inn of public sentiment. Live lawlessly and irresponsibly, and no one will condemn you; but be a Christian, and many will despise you. “There was no room for him in the inn.”
DO YOU HAVE ROOM FOR CHRIST?
As the palace, forum, and inn have no room for Christ, I wonder if you yourself have any room for him? “Well,” you may say, “I have room for him, but I am not worthy that he should come to me.” Ah! I did not ask about your worthiness; I want to know if you have room for him? “Oh,” you may say, “I have an empty void the world can never fill!” That tells me you have room for him. But then you say, “Oh, but the room I have in my heart is not attractive!” So what? Neither was the manger! “But it my heart is so despicable!” So was the manger a thing to be despised. “Ah! but my heart is so foul and dirty!” So, perhaps, the manger may have been. “Oh! but I feel it is a place not at all fit for Christ!” Nor was the manger a place fit for him, and yet there was he laid. “Oh! but I have been such a sinner; I feel as if my heart houses a den of beasts!” Well, the manger had been a place where beasts had fed. The question is, “Do you have room for him? Never mind what the past has been; he can forgive and forget. It doesn’t matter what even your present state may be, if you have room for Christ, he will come and be your guest.
Do not say, I beg you, “I hope I will have room for him some day;” No! Now is the time for him to be born! Mary couldn’t wait for months and years. Oh! sinner, if you have room for him, let him be born in your soul today. Today if you will hear his voice, don’t harden your heart against him. The Scripture says, “Today is the accepted time; today is the day of salvation.” Make room for Jesus! Make room for Jesus now!
You may say, “I have room for him, but will he come?” Will he come? Yes, he will. Just unlock the door of your heart and say, “Jesus, Master, I am unworthy and unclean, but I look to you. Come and live within my heart.” If you say that and mean it from within, he will come to you. And when we comes he will clean the manger of your heart and, indeed, will transform it into a golden throne. And there he will sit and reign for ever and ever.
This is the Christ of Christmas. He is given freely for all to take. Is your heart not ready to take him in? Won’t you say it? “Come! come in; come in now!” It will be such a happy day for you if you take him into your arms and receive him. You may then look forward even to death with joy, and say with the old man, Simeon, who saw the baby Jesus and said, “Lord, now you can let your servant depart in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation.”
The Master wants room! Room for him! I cry aloud, “Make room for the Savior! Make room for Jesus! He is the Royal Master. Do you have room for him? Here is the Son of God made flesh— Do you have room for him? Here is the One who can forgive your sin— Do you have room for him? Here is he who can deliver you from the pit of despair and the muck of your existence– Do you have room for him? When he enters, he will never go out again, but remain with you forever to make your heart a piece of heaven– Do you have room for him?
This is all I ask. Your emptiness, your nothingness, your lack of feeling, your lack goodness, your lack of grace— all these empty places will be but room for him. Do you have room for him? May the Spirit of God help you to say, “Yes, my heart has room for Jesus” For, if you are ready, he will come and live with you.