A Christmas Story
The innkeeper was tense. A meticulous man, he would check each room personally. His servants hurried before him to be sure that each accommodation would be in perfect order. Fresh, sweet-smelling straw had been placed on the clay floors of the rooms, and covered with a comfortable linen covering with pillows and bedding. Incense scented the air, along with the scents produced by the cooking of delicious sweet-meats and other delicacies produced from local gardens.
The preparations for the coming events had been in progress for several weeks. Ever since the great king Caesar Augustus had decreed that each man and his family were to return to the place of their birth for the purpose of taxing. The innkeeper had only recently obtained his position and was anxious that his employer be impressed with his ability to please his guests and provide the very best of accommodations. He knew, if he showed excellence in this new position, the employer would want to keep him on steadily and then he could pursue his plans.
Very briefly, he allowed himself to envision the beautiful young maiden who had captured his heart. If he were successful they could wed . . . have children . . . and grow old together. He pondered his thoughts, smiled and calling to his servants, pleasantly encouraged each to hurry with their tasks that all would be ready when the guests began to arrive.
The city was alive with people. Such activity had not been seen in many years. People gathered on every corner. Great caravans of citizens converged on the city and the inns began to fill. Although the traveling was hard, inconvenient and . . . expensive, most of the people enjoyed returning to their birthplace and excited greetings could be heard as many enjoyed renewing acquaintances with childhood friends and relatives.
The early arrivals, of course, had the most comfortable accommodations. To ensure that his inn would be one of the first to be filled, the innkeeper had sent two young servant boys out to the highway. And, like modern neon signs, the servants touted the excellent services that their inn had to offer. The ingenuity of this idea did not pass his employer’s careful observations. The owner liked the new, young innkeeper. And, took note of the honest, cheerful manner of the young man to whom he had entrusted his business.
As expected, the inn filled quickly. The travelers were impressed with the inn’s excellent preparation and the comforts provided them. The food was well prepared and each guest was treated with respect.
The innkeeper began to relax. His guests were comfortable, some even jovial. The conversation was stimulating as each enjoyed relating the adventures of his journey to his birthplace. Children played in the dark corners of the great gathering room and the women enjoyed the company of old and new friends.
The innkeeper began to enjoy the friendly atmosphere and knew in his heart that his employer would be pleased with the inn’s success. He was only a little concerned when a servant came to him and asked him to speak with a man who had come to the door of the inn seeking a place to stay. He moved casually through the room, out into the hall and approached the door with authority.
He was only mildly disturbed when, even after explaining to the young man that the inn was filled, he continued to plead for a place to stay; he said his wife was great with child, and his voice was raised. The innkeeper found it necessary to step outside and close the door so that the guests would not be disturbed. He would not allow anything to ruin his successful venture, even though he felt uncomfortable about turning the weary travelers away. As the man gave up his pleading and began to turn to go, the innkeeper looked into the eyes of the woman who was with him. She returned his gaze and the innkeeper felt compassion because he knew she would soon bear a child and his heart began to soften.
The man and his wife left the inn and the innkeeper returned to the festivities. But the innkeeper was tense again. He called a servant woman to his side and quickly whispered instructions in her ear. She left the inn by a side door and hurriedly caught up with the two tired travelers. She gave her brief message to the man and they agreed to follow her to the stable, grateful for the innkeeper’s compassion and the help of the servant woman pulled fresh hay from the bale and helped the expectant mother from her donkey to sit comfortably in the hay, and lit a torch so that soft light diffused the darkness. She shooed the roosting chickens from the manger and cleaned it quickly. Then she piled more sweet-smelling hay into to the manger and placed it beside the laboring young mother.
The woman discreetly brought food and drink, and then tucked herself quietly into a corner in case she might be needed for the delivery.
And so it was that the young mother did deliver her baby in the lowly stable, with the help of her husband and a servant woman. And all the wondrous events of which each of us knows did take place.
The many citizens returned to their homes and life went on in Bethlehem. The excellence of the innkeeper’s hostelry was passed on by word of mouth and the inn became the favorite place for caravans and travelers to rest. And the innkeeper prospered. He wed his beautiful bride and they enjoyed many children and they prospered, as the years passed. Many children produce many, many grandchildren and the prosperous innkeeper was known throughout the land for his honesty and charity. He found it necessary to travel a great deal as he insisted that each of the inns that carried his name, maintain the high standards of the original.
In his travels, the innkeeper met many people. He was a respected businessman and it was not long before a friend, in idle conversation one day, asked him if he knew anything about a young Jewish rabbi named Jesus. Apparently he was about 30 years of age and was in trouble with the Jewish authorities. The rabbi was causing a great disturbance, doing things like healing people, giving sight to the blind, causing the lame to walk, and raising the dead. Some people even suspected him to be the promised Messiah.
The innkeeper’s interest was piqued. At the first opportunity he determined to place himself in a position that he might observe this teacher and decide for himself. And so he tucked himself into an obscure outcropping of rock and became enthralled as the rabbi taught about love, families, doing good unto others and all the principles of kindness, charity and humanity that he, the innkeeper, had tried to live and to teach his children.
The innkeeper became a follower of Jesus. And even though he continued to run his thriving business he found that because he too, was a traveler he could often be present when Jesus taught.
So it was that the innkeeper, an influential man, found that he had arrived too late to help when the trouble came to a head. He knew that Jesus was being falsely accused and had hurried to Jerusalem to help him. It was a cruel shock to see the savior, hanging limply from the cross, flanked on either side by mere thieves. And the innkeeper shrunk from the site, blinded by tears, he felt heartbroken as a he pushed himself through the crowds of people who wept quietly at the feet of the savior.
Huddled in the darkness the innkeeper grieved, quietly at first, and then he mourned with deep wails until he felt spent and fell silent to the ground. He must have slept. Exhausted he awoke and knew that he must make one last gesture of devotion to the great teacher. Once more the innkeeper’s compassion came forth only this time he did not send a servant. This time, he himself went and with great dignity arranged for the removal of Jesus’ body from the cross. The innkeeper, with the help of some of the teacher’s friends lifted the lifeless form into a cart and together they pulled it to the tomb; the very tomb that the innkeeper had recently provided for himself. Gently the women assisted him shrouding the body in dignity and together they rolled the stone in front of the tomb. Ignoring the cruel comments of the roman soldiers, the innkeeper and his companions left the tomb. He was overjoyed when he heard that the Savior had risen from the tomb, in fulfillment of that which he had prophesied his followers about the possibility of immortality and eternal life.
This Innkeeper was a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, and he decreed that the tomb in which he had laid the body of Jesus should forever remain empty, that it should be a witness to the entire world that Christ had risen from the dead and conquered death.
Life continued for the innkeeper. He continued to prosper. His posterity grew and when the time came the innkeeper died a happy man. His widow laid him in a new tomb which he had purchased, and with great joy he greeted the savior in heaven. Jesus’ very first words of greeting were, AArimathaea enter into thy joy, for Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.