Jacob was in a delighted panic, there were more people in his Inn than he had ever had before. While giving thanks to the Romans would be condemned by the Temple authorities he was certainly thankful for this emperor’s whim. Now if only he could find time to sit down to enjoy all of those shekels he was collecting. Sara, his wife, was busy in the kitchen cooking a meal for their paying guests and for their own abundant family who weren’t paying because his wife wouldn’t let him charge them. Family, sometimes you can’t live without them but tonight he would like to try.
Now Jacob loved his kind and gentle Sara, but sometimes her kindness was irritating. After all Jacob had to provide for his family. His son, Isaiah, had only just reached manhood, although he was a big help to him tonight. Isaiah was carrying water to all of the paying guests (let his relatives get their own) and taking care of the animals. Jacob’s two girls were busy in the kitchen with their mother and while Elizabeth was still a little small she was working just as hard as her older sister, Rebecca. Over all Jacob was very happy, his Inn was full and he had a box full of money. He should not only be able to pay the tax collector (May YHWH rain fire down on his head!) but also have sufficient money for the next several months. There might even be enough left over to put a little aside for his daughters dowries.
Jacob was suddenly shaken out of his revere by a call from his son.
“Father, there are two more in the courtyard.”
Jacob threw up his hands and ran out to tell them that he had no more room and that they should move on. When Jacob opened the door a tall man greeted him. A very pregnant young woman was perched on a donkey behind him. Jacob had to admit she looked very tired and uncomfortable.
“Excuse me, my wife and I would like a room to spend the night. If you don’t have a room a corner would do. Mary, my wife, is expecting and she is very tired. We have money to pay and I will take care of the donkey myself.”
“I’m sorry we don’t have any rooms,’ Jacob said, “and to be honest with you I don’t think there are rooms free anywhere else in Bethlehem right now. This mandated census has filled all the Inns. My suggestion would be that you go up into the hills above the city and find a cave. At least it would be out of the wind. Good night to you.”
“Jaaa…cob, Isaiah tells me there is a woman with child out there”.
Jacob turned around and groaned as he faced his wife Sara. “Sara we don’t have any room! Where would we put them?” Taking one look at his wife’s face he said “Oh no! I am not giving up my bed! I am tired and will need to get some sleep tonight if I am to deal with all of these people tomorrow!”
Sara patiently looked at her red-faced husband; she knew he wasn’t as hard-hearted as some thought he was, he just had to be nudged once in a while. “Well we can’t turn out a pregnant woman (may the LORD bless her child!), she looks like she is going to deliver any time now! This census is bringing people out on the roads that shouldn’t be there! Don’t you dare send them to the caves! She’s pregnant Jacob, there are thieves up there and they will be robbed or worse! Do you really want that on your hands? Jacob, money isn’t everything.”
Jacob groaned again. “Well, where do you propose we put them?”
“Isaiah”, Sara called, “get me some blankets and a lamp. Jacob, the stable has a corner that is warm and dry, and you won’t charge them either!”
The man at the door had been looking on as the Innkeeper and his wife argued and now said, “Please, we will be glad to pay, we have some of our own supplies, we just need a place to rest.”
“No,” Jacob sighed, “Sara’s right, we can’t charge you for a night in the stable. Isaiah will take you around the back and help his mother get you settled.” Isaiah ran up with the bedding. “Take them around to the stable and fix the stall on the west wall, it’s the driest and warmest. Then come back and help Rebecca take some warm food and wine out to our guests.”
The gentlemen started to protest, “No, sir, it is the least we can do. If you need anything during the night just knock on the door at the back, Isaiah will be sleeping there tonight and he will do what he can.”
The man looked very relieved, “thank you all so very much, you are very kind. This is Mary’s first child and we have traveled so very far today. My name is Joseph and I am a carpenter, if you need anything repaired or need any work done while we are here I will be glad to do it.” Talking softly to his young wife, who turns and smiles her thanks at the innkeeper, Joseph turns, takes the donkey’s lead and follows Isaiah.
Sara looks lovingly at her husband. “You old softy, I knew you couldn’t turn them away.”
“Go, woman, and prepare some food for these people. At least I’ll be able to get that back room lintel fixed. Oh yes, I’ll take him up on his offer, he is an honorable man and I won’t embarrass him, go, go!” Jacob looks outside as he turns to close the door, “my goodness it is bright outside, almost like daylight, there must be a full moon.”
©Ruth Jewell, November 29, 2009
Blessings and Peace to all this Christmastide!
This story was written for the 2009 Christmas Eve Service and I offer it here to all of you as my Christmas Gift.