Another knock reverberated throughout the entrance way. With a groan, the man went to open the door. Would it ever stop? This never ending stream of people, seeking shelter…..and his inn had filled up hours ago. What were the Romans thinking, bringing everyone who had ever been born back to Bethlehem? They had left for a reason — there simply wasn’t enough room!
He shook his head at the traveler, and closed the door. Just as he removed his hand, another knock echoed. He opened it and once again repeated what he had been saying for a while now: “There’s no room at this inn….”
He felt bad, having to turn away so many who appeared to be so wearily tired. Tired of everything, he was sure. The dust, the heat, the walking, the jarring of the footpaths…..the Romans should have thought this through better. Planned accommodations. Prepared for the influx of people.
Another knock sounded as he sat down to finish his meal. He stood up, prepared to turn away someone else; some other tired soul. “There’s no room at this inn.”
But instead of taking his answer and leaving with it, the young man seemed insistent. “Please! My wife! She’s going to have a baby — we have no time to go farther!”
The inn keeper peered around the man, to the donkey waiting patiently with a young lady on his back. The girl did appear to be in some pain…..but there was truly no room. Especially no privacy for a child to be born! What was he to do? He couldn’t very well turn them away — they truly needed a place to stay. Perhaps he could ask…..but no. There were three families in that room, and it was no place for a woman to birth a child.
A low, rumbling groan recalled his thoughts to the two young people in front of him. The man looked anxiously over his shoulder at his young bride, and she gave a small smile, assuring him she was okay.
Except it looked much more like a grimace.
And the look in her eyes was one of pure agony.
“Joseph!” she gasped out, and convulsively grabbed the poor animals mane.
The inn keeper decided. He couldn’t turn these two away, and there was only one place where there would be proper room for a birth. It wasn’t much, but it was the best he could offer.
He turned to the man and requested him to follow, with the young woman.
He led them through the town, to a small, peaceful valley. He led the way to a small opening in the side of the cliff, his shelter for his animals.
He apologized that he had nothing better for the girl. It truly was the best he could do, and he was sorry to leave them there.
The man was understanding, thankful, even, for that small privilege of a roof over their heads, warm hay for the lady to rest against, walls to keep away prying eyes. He was already heaping the straw into a mound for the woman. Assisting her down, half carrying her as labour pains once again racked her body with an agonizing grip. The inn keeper quickly excused himself, and headed back. He was sure there were already people trying to break the doors down to get in to his inn.
All that afternoon, he wondered about the couple. He sent a plate of food, and the servant returned, reporting that the time was near for delivery.
That evening, he was standing in the doorway, enjoying the silence. The restful, peaceful silence that went unbroken. As soon as the night had set in for good and the daylight faded, all the travelers had found a place to lay down and camp, and made themselves comfortable. It was a beautiful night; the stars seemed brighter than normal, and he was enjoying the sight.
He suddenly heard the sound of leather sandals running through the dust. They drew closer, until he stepped out in the road, right into the pathway of strangers. Strangers who were running. Strangers, who, judging by the way of dress, the smell and the general shaggy and dirty appearance, were shepherds. Strange, that they would have left their sheep alone. He called out, asking them what the problem was. For a fleeting moment, he prepared himself to hear that the city was under attack.
Instead, a wondrous tale came from the lips of the shepherds. A story that was quite unbelievable, that contained lights and angels and songs and a baby, lying in a manger. As if any responsible parents would put their new born child in a manger….especially a child as special as this one seemed to be, if angels had announced the birth. Surely they could have found somewhere to stay, better than a stable. Surely the inn keeper would make room…..his face blanched as he remembered the strangers; the young woman in labour; the stable he had led them too. Surely…..but no. He looked around, trying to figure out which way the shepherds had taken to get around the man who stood woolgathering, blocking their paths.
But he knew the way to his stable, he would just take a peek and see. He had wanted to check on the child earlier in the day anyways, and hadn’t had a chance. He skillfully made his way to his shelter, and quietly peered in. He saw a sight that made tears fill his eyes, that made his heart ache. There, on the ground, kneeling in the straw around the feeding trough, were the shepherds. They were kneeling before the child, who lay sleeping peacefully after the hard work of being born. The mother lay in the corner, half propped up between the straw and the rock that formed the wall. She looked tired, but peaceful as she watched the shepherds with her child. The father was on his knees beside his wife, holding her hands and gazing with pride at their newborn Son.
Their new born Son, who would one day change the world. Save it. None of those gathered quite knew what it meant, what His title of Saviour would involve. But they knew that this child wasn’t really theirs; He was the Son of the very God, YWHY, that they had been taught to serve since they were both children.
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