I was thinking about G.K. Chesterton’s poem, “The House of Christmas,” this week as I read the news about an ongoing legal battle between the home-sharing company Airbnb and the City of New York. Since 2008, Airbnb’s business model has disrupted the entire hotel industry with the simple idea that people will pay money for the opportunity to stay in someone else’s home rather than in a generic hotel room that is often unaffordable or unavailable. Lodgers by the millions have responded to Airbnb’s focus on the “hospitality” quotient of the hospitality industry.
This reminded me of the first stanza in Chesterton’s poem: “There fared a mother driven forth / Out of an inn to roam; / In the place where she was homeless / All men are at home.” Each year, we rehearse the narrative of Christ’s birth and imagine the loneliness and exhaustion Mary and Joseph felt. We wonder about the heartlessness of the overbooked innkeeper, perhaps bound by regulations that kept him from making room for a woman about to give birth. Where Chesterton points out the paradox of a homeless Messiah extending welcome to all people, I wonder if Airbnb’s model of hospitality represents one way God's grace is incarnated.
Bonus feature: photos from a a variety of Airbnb locations we've enjoyed the past couple of years