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NO ROOM.....

"Census in Bethlehem" panel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, painted in 1566.


I felt sorry for that couple, I really did.

They were at their wits’ end, the pair of them, just about all in.

But it was the lady who concerned me most; fit to drop she was,

and hardly a surprise, given her condition –

not that I’m an expert in these matters

but I felt sure her pains had already started; and so it was to prove, poor lass.

As for him, he was beside himself,

frantic with worry, almost abusive in his frustration; and I can’t say I blamed him –I’d have been the same in the circumstances.

Yet what could I do? There wasn’t a room to spare, that was the fact of the matter. We were packed already,

bulging at the seams, and I could hardly turf someone else out just to fit them in, could I?

I wish now I’d taken the wife’s advice

and given up our room for them.

But to be honest we were both whacked,

what with all the extra custom to see to.

We had an inn to run, remember,

and we were rushed off our feet……

Longing only for a good night’s sleep ourselves.

So we gave them the stable and that’s the end of it –

no point brooding over what might have been.

And to be fair, they were grateful,

glad to anywhere to put their hands down. But when I heard the baby crying, that’s when it got to me –

out there in those conditions!

I felt ashamed, disgusted with myself.

So we hurried out, the wife and I, anxious to help,

not sure what we might find, fearing the worst.

But what a surprise! There was no panic,

no sign of confusion.

Quite the contrary –they seemed so peaceful,

so full of joy, utterly content.

And the way they looked at that child –

I mean, I’ve heard of worshipping your kids

but this was something else –

they were over the moon,

absolutely ecstatic!

Adoration of Shepherds, Domenico Ghirlandaio.

And that wasn’t half of it,

for suddenly there in the shadows

I spotted a bunch of shepherds –

God knows where they came from.

Thought for a moment they were up to no good, but they weren’t.

They just stood there gawping in the manger, wide-eyed with wonder,

almost as though they’d never seen a baby before!

And then they walked away, joy in their faces, delight in their steps.

It’s all quiet now, the inn and the stable, as if that night had never happened.

And so far as I know both mother and child are well.

You could say that’s down to me in part, at least I did something to help if no one else did. Yet I can’t help feeling I should have done more, that I let everyone down somehow –that it wasn’t finally them I left out in the cold –it was me.

"Census in Bethlehem" detail of Mary and Joseph, Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

Dearest God,

please never let me crowd my life

full to the brim

like the keeper of Bethlehem’s Inn,

and I find I have no room for Him.

Instead, let my heart’s door be ever open,

ready to welcome The Newborn King.

Let me offer the best I have

to Him who gives me everything.

Each of us is an innkeeper,

deciding if there is room for Jesus or not.

Neal A. Maxwell

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