Book Review: The Innkeeper

Every year John Piper writes an Advent poem as a gift for the congregation of Bethlehem Baptist Church.  This one tells a fictionalized story of the innkeeper who housed Joseph and Mary.

Most Nativity retellings emphasize the fact that there was “no room in the inn,” interpreting this to mean the innkeeper had no eyes to see the meaning of the Nativity.  But Piper takes a different tack, giving a historically plausible interpretation that Jesus’ poverty-stricken parents would have been grateful for a free place in the godly innkeeper’s stable, and that the innkeeper and his wife understood that they had housed the Messiah.

In this story Jesus, on his way to be crucified, visits the innkeeper and hears his account of the Nativity.  His story goes on to dramatically describe Herod’s Slaughter of the Innocents (Matthew 2:16-18), in which the innkeeper lost his entire family and his right arm.  He lived on in lonely grief, never understanding why God would allow such evil to happen.  Jesus grieves with the man and promises that after his crucifixion he will defeat the serpent who has the power of death, and raise this man’s family to life again.

Piper draws together the stories of a joy-filled family and a terrible evil.  We expect sentimentality at Christmastime, but his poem has none.  The story actually strikes a discordant tone with its portrayal of dread and horror, but this problem is answered with the sure hope that Jesus brings to those who suffer under the reign of death and evil.

Because of the violent content of the story, it may be best suited to teenagers or mature grade-schoolers.

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Publication Information: Piper, John. Innkeeper, The. Crossway. 1998. ISBN: 1581340273.
Categories: 5 Stars, Age 12-16
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Posted on December 9, 2009

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