4. The Inn Keeper’s Wife
(Warning: In this little series of ‘meditations’ there are simply wonderings about what actually some of the people in the Christmas story felt. They are obviously based on Scripture but they are only wonderings, for we do not know. Yet, if they help us really think into the wonder of what happened two thousand years ago at the time we call Christmas, that will be good.)
The woman gently settled on the bed with a quiet sigh.
“Have they gone yet?” came her husband’s voice.
“Yes,” she replied with a smile that was swallowed up in the darkness.
“Noisy bunch of hooligans, disturbing the sleep of good people!” and with a further “Hummph!” she heard the sounds of him turning over and a few minutes later, gentle snoring.
She lay there in the darkness thinking back over the past hours.
How vulnerable they had appeared when they arrived at the door of the inn an hour or so after dark. The young man looked tired out; no, exhausted. There was an air of desperation about him as he pleaded for a room for he and his young wife. She too looked like it was very much the end of a hard day.
Her heart had gone out to them as she realised that the young girl was obviously in the final hours of her confinement. She wished she had a room left for them but the last one had gone earlier in the day. It was all these poor people pouring into the town to be counted.
One part of her had just wanted to send them away because she was already so busy coping with the crowded inn and yet, something in her seemed to say, take them in. She wondered if any of the neighbours might be able to take them but she knew already that that was a hopeless thought, for every spare room in the town was being let out to the returning crowds.
“All I can suggest is that you use our stable round the back. You can put your donkey there if you like, and if you want to bed down in the straw I’m sure my husband wouldn’t mind.”
As the young man helped the girl down off the donkey she gave a groan. “Please help us, Mary is about to have our baby.”
“I can see that, young man,” she had replied, “come on then, quickly, bring her round the back. The offer still stands; it’s the best I can do for you.”
And so it was that the young couple had settled in the stable at the back of their inn. From time to time she had gone round to check on them. The young man hadn’t wanted her to leave them but the call of duties in the inn meant she had to be coming and going.
But then the contractions had started to come more quickly. “Please, don’t leave her,” the young man had begged. She had stayed and within minutes it had seemed, the stable had a third occupant. She had hurried back into the inn to find some cloth to wrap him in and now he lay beside his exhausted mother. Peace had descended on the stable and she had just been about to leave them for the night when there came this hullabaloo from outside. There was noisy talking and laughing. Whatever next, it’s the middle of the night!
She had gone out to see the cause of the noise, and there they were. There must have been about fifteen of them – all men of course, giving no thought to the rest of the world trying to sleep.
“What do you lot want?” she had demanded.
“Do you have a new born baby here?” one of them asked.
“Yes, but what’s that to you?”
“We’ve been told to come and see him,” came the answer.
“Told? Who told you to come?”
“Angels,” another one cried loudly. There was a chorus of assent.
“Angels?” she had replied? “Whatever are you on about?”
“There were angels, missus, hundreds of them in the sky. They sung to us.”
“And they told us to come because a saviour had been born.” another chipped in.
“But it was so wonderful we just had to come,” a third added.
Her mind had been in a whirl. “You’d better come in then, here, round the back in the stable.”
Still chattering excitedly the motley band of shepherds had followed her round to the back of the inn.
It was only as she had pulled open the big door of the barn that a hush fell over the group.
The single lamp hanging from a beam allowed them to see a startled couple protectively clutching their baby.
They filed in silently and, as if by command, knelt down around the little family.
For some reason tears ran down a number of their faces.
“Oh, the little lamb,” one of the onlookers whispered.
The young mother smiled, “Yes.”
“What’s his name?” another one ventured.
“Jesus,” the young father answered.
“Doesn’t that mean deliverer?” another asked. “I mean I remember that from when I was young,” he added with embarrassment.
“Of course, you idiot, the angel said he would be a saviour.” came from another, who then shut his mouth firmly for it seemed that harsh words were out of place here.
“Thank you mistress,” one of the older shepherds whispered to Mary and turning to the others, “Come on you lot, we’ve done what we were told to do. Let’s leave them in peace.”
And then they had gone and silence ruled the night again. She had returned to bed at last. These had been strange happenings. As she lay there, with tiredness gradually easing her into sleep she thought to herself, “Well I don’t know what has been going on her tonight, but I was a part of it, not that anyone will remember me though.” And she slept.
Passage covered by the story above: Luke 2:4-20