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Testimony of an Inn-Keeper

A Christmas Story

My name is immaterial here to mention, but my arrogant attitude to an old man and his pregnant wife, hardly aged 15+ or so, prompted me to put this testimony.

The lady was very tired. The man who brought her was from our place itself, but wasn’t seen here for quite some time, and I do not find any need to oblige to his request, nor he is related to me. During that winter, people scattered over Judea came to our tiny village. Though it was a small village, it was famous for its cattle rearing. In our town, you know how will be a town in a small village, we do not have posh guest rooms or lodges to accommodate people. May be the reason was that we never experienced anybody come to our village for a longer stay. The farmers, cattle rearers’ and shepherds, all went out to distant places for selling out their products, cattle, sheep and goats.

As I remember, there was an order from the then king Herod to enumerate all the people according to their tribe, and hence lot of people around came to register their name with the enumerators, who has been appointed by the King’s officials. I noticed that there wasn’t any order for registration. Nobody was there to control the crowd. Even I saw some people bribe the servants of the enumerators to get their name registered immediately. Those who paid extra money got their work done immediately; others were forced to stay overnight, outside in the cold for days and night waiting for their turn to come.

When I saw the situation of chaos, I understood that the flow of strangers will continue for a long time. The commercial mind of mine woke up. I converted one of my vacant house into an Inn for lending out to strangers. The return from this was more than what I expected. People were ready to pay more and more to stay, to keep them safe from the chilly winter.

In the evening of 24th December, a tired old man with a beard and staff in his hand approached me for a room for him and his wife's stay. By his look, it seemed to me that he is worried too much, and must have traveled a lot to reach this place. I flatly told him that there is no room vacant to lend at that time, and he may go out and look for some other place. Though rooms were available, it was my strategy to say no at first and later try to get more money than the usual charges. I expected that the old man will offer more money. Instead, he started pleading that his wife is carrying, and is in her advanced stage, and he is a poor carpenter and do not have much money to look for some other place.

In the mean time a wealthy man with his family approached me and asked for a room, and he paid almost five times more than the usual charges. I happily asked the room boys to give them the possession of a well furnished room. Not only that I got more money, I expected that I can extract more from him. All this has been done in the presence of the poor carpenter, who has standing aloof, even after I told him to go away. Again and again this fellow pleaded with me for a place, and telling that his wife will not be able to walk further, and hence requested for a place to stay atleast during that night. I was really fed up with that old man and got angry with him, and I did not want to hear his pleading any more. I wanted to avoid him and wish not to give him a room, hence I told him that if he wants he can look in our cattle-shed for some place. I wish that after hearing this the man will go away to some other place. He just walked out from my office.

After closing the day's accounts, I was very happy, because the total collection for that day was more than double to the previous day. With dreams for acquiring more land and other assets, I went to sleep. Sometime in the middle of my sleep I remember hearing the cry of a baby. But with sweet dreams of acquiring more and more in the future, I didn’t give much attention to it. Usually my sleep get disturbed due to cry of the cattle during night. But on that night it didn’t happen, I had a sound sleep with sweet dreams.

On the next day, sometime in the evening, one of my servants came running to me and told that a young lady gave birth to a baby boy in the cattle-shed. I remembered that it may be the wife of that old man. The servant also told me that during that night three wise men with modest dress and crowned like kings visited the place on three camels, and was looking around for somebody very reverent. Later they went to our cattle-shed, found out the baby child in His mother’s laps, and presented some gifts to the newly born baby after kneeling down to the baby and His mother, and immediately went back to the opposite direction. After these men left, few shepherds came running to the cattle-shed singing some unknown songs, which has not yet been heard anywhere, dancing around the baby and His mother and went away. In normal conditions the cattle used to be disturbed if they saw any stranger. When this servant went to the cattle-shed for milking the cows, they were very calm and quite, as if they were reluctant to make any sound, that will disturb the sleeping baby. He was also telling that previous night he had seen a brightest star standing over the cattle-shed for quite sometime, and also heard some divine music never heard before, from the western hillside of the village.

After hearing all this I rushed to the cattle-shed, but in vain, there was none, but the glowing face of cattle. I felt that these cattle wanted to tell me something, that is dearer to them, i.e. “We have seen the Creator, and we are lucky”. I wished my cattle could speak like that donkey which spoke like human to Balaam, the prophet once. I felt sorry about missing the glimpse of that baby and its mother. After that in all the feasts or festivals I attended, I look for that old bearded man and his family, but could not succeed. Still I remember the innocence of that old man, if I remember, he once spelt his name as Ouseph, a descendent of David.

After thirty-five years I heard from few fishermen that a baby boy born in a manger at Bethlahem, the town of David was none other than The Son of God. The Great Prophet Jessiha prophesied about the birth of the King of Israel, the Son of God. Those who learned about this in the scriptures expected His birth in a Palace as a Prince, and hence they all missed the glimpses of the divine child.

The remarkable aspect of this news about God entering our world is the fact that God broke in, not as a power broker, but as a powerless baby, who grew-up to be a daily wage earner and later on, an itinerant preacher. God chose not to come as one of the oppressors, but as one of the oppressed. God sided with the downtrodden, the underprivileged of the human society. The missed opportunity to this greedy inn-keeper haunted him till his last breath. He was desperately looking for the face of that old man, and if possible the divine face of that baby boy and His mother. He couldn’t succeed in identifying them, but understood that they were all divine.

Would any of us wanted to be like the Inn-keeper, who has been more concerned about the best commercial use of a particular situation, and missed a chance to see the divine baby in his compound, and later looking for that missed opportunity to see that face in the crowd? None of us wanted to be haunted with a feeling that “I have probably missed Jesus Christ by not knowing that He had come to me and I could not provide Him a proper place in my own “INN”.

Let us all pray to HIM to allow us to be in the group of The Wise-men and The Shepherds, and not in the group of the Inn-keeper, King Herod, Chief Priest and the Teachers of Law, though knowing but missed an opportunity.

Contributed by: C.J. Varughese, SOCM Forum

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