The following is a completely fictional narrative of the Christmas story based on completely true events in history.
As you walk in the innkeeper's worn-out sandals for a few minutes, I invite you to look at the familiar story of the Nativity through different eyes. Here’s a guy who is somewhat jaded, cynical, and irritable. His main concern is his motel's ratings. And yet one night everything changes as he answers the knock at the front door.
Who’s at the Door?
Wow, that’s some nerve. Who’s that knocking at my door at this unearthly hour when all sane people should be wrapped up in quilts and dreams? Like the dear missus here - completely oblivious to the world around her. Or at least feigning complete ignorance.
Maybe if I don’t stir, they’ll go away. Please God: I need my recommended eight hours. I’ll even settle for seven. But I need some sleep, so please send whoever’s at the door far, far away.
Okay, fine, fine . . . I’m coming. Because goodness knows this woman at my side isn’t about to rise from her sweet slumber. "Beauty" sleep they call it. Hah! Like that’s working!
Coming! I’ll be there in a second! Where’s that night lamp?
What d’ya want? A room? Do you have a reservation? Listen, I’d love to help you’ll out, I really would. But the thing is: NO ONE IN THIS WHOLE DARNED TOWN HAS ANY ROOM.
You may have heard there’s this leeetle thing happening called the census? You know Caesar’s decree to count all the citizens? But no one thought about this teeny, completely unimportant, totally immaterial thing called LOGISTICS. Where is everyone going to stay when they come to town? Beats me! Every single room in my motel is filled up. Same at the Holiday Inn down the street. Maybe there’s someplace at that pretentious 'Bethlehem - A Boutique Hotel' but I hear they had an issue with bed bugs. But, hey, that’s not my problem. NOT. MY. PROBLEM. Have a wonderful night now! Goodbye!
(Knocking resumes. Door opens again.)
Well, hello again. You want me to step outside for a minute? Sure. It’s not like I need to SLEEP OR ANYTHING. And what’s your name? Joseph. Nice to meet you, man. See, you seem like a real nice guy, Joe . . . real nice.
Oh . . . wait. I see your wife’s pregnant. Like ready-to-deliver pregnant. Where are you from? Nazareth? Wow, guys, that’s 80 miles away . . . it must have taken, what, three days to get here? If I could help you, I would. There’s some leftover pumpkin soup the wife made for dinner. But, as for room in my motel, I’m sorry, my hands are tied.
(Door shuts softly. And then creaks open.)
Hey guys! Wait a minute. I just might have an idea. It’s not the perfect idea, but it just may work. I kinda do some part-time farming. It helps pay some bills. Our barn’s out back. I’ll warn you that it’s not exactly sanitary. The missus doesn’t let me come anywhere near her when I’ve worked in the barn. But that might be TMI. I digress. The barn. It just might work for you and your wife, Joseph.
I don’t know what it is about you both, but I won’t be able to sleep if I know you’re still wandering around this cold night looking for a place to rest.
Wife! Wake up! Wakey wakey. Rise and shine! Yes, I know it’s 2 am and no, I’m not going crazy. Remember the knocking at the door which you so skilfully chose to ignore? Well, there was a couple at the door. A man named Joseph and his young, very pregnant wife. Mary. I was so mad when I went to open the door, but that one conversation with them . . . and something strange happened. I actually wanted to make room for them and their soon-to-be-born baby. You won’t believe what I did! I offered them the barn. Yes, yes, I warned them about the stench . . . But they didn’t seem to mind. In fact, they were super grateful and so full of something . . . I think it was happiness. Wait, it was something deeper. They were filled with boundless joy! Despite everything!
(Sound of crickets chirping. A window opens.)
Okay, woman, now you’re really going to think I’m crazy. There’s a light, a really bright star, right above that stinky barn. No, I’m not having a midlife crisis. And no, it’s not the extra helping of cabbage rolls that I had for dinner. Come, see. That star is hovering right above the barn. It’s like a sign. Like an angel pointing toward that stable and saying, “Pay attention, there’s something special happening.” I’m not making this up. Our smelly barn is the site of something momentous. Something life-altering.
(Innkeeper continues his reflection.)
The silence of the night is broken only by the crying of the baby. It’s a sweet sound. A sound of a new beginning. But also a sound of completion. Something that is right and true. How can a baby’s cry bring so much peace? I may have had too many cabbage rolls for dinner. No, no, I can’t explain this away. It’s like this place, this city, the whole earth was waiting. And now we wait no longer.
(Tea kettle whistles.)
If there’s one thing you do well wife, it’s making a good cup of tea. And, boy, do I need a strong cuppa right now. What a completely bizarre night. First, that joyful couple at our door – thrilled that I was offering them a barn – of all things – to sleep in. Then that dazzling bright star just above our barn. The baby’s born and he exercises his little lungs – and all I can think is even his cries are perfect. That’s he’s what the world has been waiting for. He’s who I have been waiting for.
It’s like my world’s been turned upside down but in a good way. In the best way possible. Pour me a second cup of that Bethlehem Breakfast tea, would ya, wife? Phew.
(Innkeeper continues speaking to himself.)
Last night, I went to bed super happy that all the motel rooms had been booked. I had no space for anyone here. Definitely not for a newborn baby disturbing all my guests. That would have been unthinkable. My Trip Advisor ratings would have plunged to the bottom of the Red Sea.
But this morning, my ratings, my motel, my grumbling – all of that seems so insignificant, so small, in the presence of . . . of all things . . . a newborn baby!
Suddenly, I want to make room. That knocking at the door last evening . . . It feels like it’s inside of me. A knocking at my heart.
I think I’ll head to the barn this morning . . . you know, collect some fresh eggs for my motel guests . . .
But maybe I’ll also stop by and see the baby. Spend a minute or two with him. Of all the inexplicable nights in my life!
And to think it all started with that knock on the door.
"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me." (Revelation 3:20)