“Has it been a NIGHT, or what?” She whispered the words, mostly to herself.
The Innkeeper’s wife hadn’t stopped for anything all day. Cooking, cleaning, making sure the less-desirable guests didn’t make off with the possessions of the nice folks who just wanted to follow the rules and do as they were decreed.
Now, rowdy guests finally quiet, kids fed and put to bed, the kitchen ready to start up before daylight – which wouldn’t be too many hours, now – she is finally ready to lay her head on the pillow and claim her OWN bed.
She could hear the clink of coins on the other side of the curtain, wondering just how long her innkeeper husband would count and re-count the money. This census was a God-send for them. Yes, it was hard work, but it was the first time a decree from Caesar Augustus had resulted in a positive way, financially, for the little people in their part of the world.
“Please, Father God, bless all those under our roof.”
She prayed for their guests. She prayed for her husband and family.
When the candle went out and the curtain parted, she breathed a sigh of relief. A few hours. That’s all she needed. She relaxed.
Just as her husband was settling in – immediately starting to snore, as usual – she heard a voice outside –
“Please! Help us!”
Fear rippled through her as she wondered – was this legitimate? Who would be out at this time of night? But then, travelers had been arriving all day. Why not all night?
With a sigh, she poked her husband. “Wake up! There’s someone outside!”
“There’s always someone outside! The town is FULL tonight. WE’RE full tonight. They’ll just have to go somewhere else . . .” He turned over, his sentence ending on a little snort-snore.
She shoved his shoulder. “No! They’re asking for help!”
“Then you go . . . I’m exhausted . . .”
Another punch. This time, harder. “Get out of this bed or you’ll have to sleep with the donkeys tonight!”
She didn’t usually threaten, but there was something about the young man’s voice, and the stifled cry of pain from what sounded like a young woman that made her anxious.
He got up and put his robe back on, lighting a candle once more. After a few seconds, she followed him to the door. What she saw broke her heart.
A very frightened young man was turning away from the door, going to a heavily pregnant young woman. A girl, really, her face etched in pain.
Her husband turned away from the door to face her. “I told him we have no room.” He shook his head, as if saddened at the situation. “There’s just no place for them – and if there were, she can’t have her baby HERE, in the midst of all these people.” His hands were in front of him, entreating her to understand.
Her earlier threat to her husband came back to her – sleeping with the donkeys – and the innkeeper’s wife smiled triumphantly.
“Go and catch them! We do have a place!”
His eyes widened. “Not my bed, I hope!”
“No, somewhere even better – the stable!”
“ You just put clean straw down in the last stall in case anyone came with a donkey or camel, and nobody has asked for it. It’s there, it’s warm, and it’s got no eager onlookers.”
“But . . . the stable?” He was not convinced. “Besides, they’re long gone by now . . .”
“Take a look.” She pointed out the door to the young man and woman just a few steps farther than they had been moments before. She was squeezing the young man’s hand tightly, gritting her teeth as another wave of pain had obviously stopped them in their tracks.
“Young man! We have a place! It’s not much . . . a stable . . . but it’s clean and warm. You’ll have it to yourself if you don’t count donkeys and cows.”
Relief was evident on the boy’s face. He glanced at the girl. “Will that be OK? It’s a stable, not an inn.”
The young woman spoke gently. She looked at the young man, and then back at the innkeeper and his wife. “God has provided a warm place. And I can’t go farther. It sounds perfect.” Another contraction made her close her eyes as the color drained from her face, visible even in the dim light of the lantern.
“We’ll take it. May God bless you people, as you are blessing us.”
The innkeeper’s wife gathered some extra blankets and rags, and an extra lantern, and made her way behind her husband as he showed them down the path to the stable. It was a cave, really, but a place where the wind would not cut, and the horde of people invading the town for the census would not bother them.
A few hours later, the innkeeper’s wife was awakened by a cry. Not a frightened cry, but the amazing, heart-warming cry of a newborn just introduced into the world. She smiled, relieved that the worst was over for this young family, and went back to sleep.
Little did she know that what had come was her own salvation.
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.