4pm Carol Service
The Innkeeper’s Tale - An imaginative re-telling of the Nativity story
Hello everyone. My name’s Matthew. And I have the honour of owning a little pub in a town called Bethlehem, in Judea. It’s a pretty famous pub, actually. People come from all over the place to see where something very important happened - about 35 years ago. In fact, I’ve even been offered a LOT of money by a group of wealthy religious-types to sell my little pub to them. They want to build something they call a church, right on the site where this important event happened.
Would you like to hear the story of what happened, that night, 35 years ago?
It had been a really busy day at the pub. The Romans, who are in charge at the moment, had started this thing they called a census. They wanted to count how many people were living in the land. And, for some reason, they insisted that everyone had to go to the Town they were born in, to be counted for the census. Don’t ask me. It didn’t make any sense to me either. Anyway, that meant that there were lots of people coming home to Bethlehem for the census. My little pub was full to bursting. I had people sleeping under tables, and on the roof. We were jam-packed!
When evening came, everyone settled down to try to get some sleep. Me and my wife were tucked up in bed, nice and warm. Suddenly, in the middle of the night, there was a pounding on the door. Someone was shouting “Let us in! Let us in!”.
So, I pulled my coat on, and went down to the front door, where the man was still pounding away – “Let us in! Let us in!”
“Alright, alright”, I said. “I’m coming! Hold your horses!”
“I am holding my horse!” said the man on the other side of the door. “Except it’s actually a donkey”
I opened the door, warily. This midnight visitor sounded a bit bonkers to me! And there, just outside the door, was a tall man, holding a donkey, with a woman sitting on that.
“Please!”, said the man. “You’ve got to help us. My wife is pregnant, and she thinks the baby is on the way!”
I looked at the poor girl on the donkey. She certainly didn’t look very comfortable. Her face was all twisted up in pain. I could see that this was going to be tricky. I couldn’t really just slam the door in the face of a woman about to give birth could I?
“Please!” said the man, again. Isn’t there somewhere we could stay? We’ll stay on your flat roof, if you like.”
“No room!” I said. “Already stacked with travellers”
“How about under a table?” the man asked.
“No room!” I said. “There’s already four people under the tables, and one of them has a goat too!”
“So where can we go?” said the man. “Look at her. She’s going to pop, any minute!”
Suddenly, I had an idea. “The stable!”, I said. “How about the stable? It’s a bit smelly, and it’s full of animals. But it’s got a roof on it, and some warm hay.”
“Oh thank you!” said the man. “That’ll do nicely.” He turned his donkey around, straight away, and led his heavily pregnant wife over to the stable.
I left them to it, and went back to bed. After all, what do I know about giving birth? ‘They’ll be alright now’ I told myself, as I went back to sleep.
A couple of hours later, there was another commotion outside. I could hear lots of voices, whispering to each other, in the night. “Where is it?” “Over here, I think”. “Look at that star! It’s shining right onto the stable!”
Clearly, I wasn’t going to get any sleep at all. So I pulled on my coat again, and went outside to see what all the fuss was about. There, to my astonishment, I found a whole pile of Shepherds, standing around in my courtyard, and peering into the stable. Shepherds! Just what I needed! Shepherds are a dirty bunch. They live outside of the town, out on the hillside, looking after their sheep. And they don’t have a bath very often. Very pungent, I can tell you.
“Oi!”, I shouted to the Shepherds. “What are you lot doing here? Get out of my courtyard!”.
“But sir!”, one of them turned to me. “We’ve been told to come here”
“Told?” said I. “By who?”
“By some angels, sir!”
“What?!” (Clearly, these Shepherds had been out on the booze! They must’ve been drunk, I thought).
“Honestly, sir!” another Shepherd said. “We were out on the hillside, looking after our sheep, when suddenly an angel appeared in the sky. He told us that he had good news to tell us. He said that today, a baby had been born who was going to save all the world. And that we would find the baby, wrapped in some old cloths, lying in a manger…an animal’s food trough”
“I know what a manger is, young man!” I said to the Shepherd.
“Sorry, sir,” he said. “But then, after that, the whole sky lit up, with thousands of angels, singing praise to God, and singing ‘Glory in the highest heaven, and peace to people on earth!”.
There was something honest about this Shepherd. He seemed so convinced of what he was telling me. And all his mates were with him too…so perhaps there was something in it, after all.
“And you think,” I asked him, “that this special baby has been borne in my stable?”
“Yes sir. That’s why we’re here sir. Come and see for yourself, sir”
Tentatively, I made my way through the throng of Shepherds, crowding around the door to my stable. And there, right in front of me, I saw something that took my breath away. I saw that bloke, who had the donkey earlier, standing over his wife who was kneeling on the straw. In front of her, was one of my mangers – only this one had a baby inside it. But strangest of all, there was a strange, heavenly light shining all around the manger. I looked up, through a hole in the roof, and there above us was the most brilliant star I’ve ever seen. And it was shining right onto the baby.
Somehow, something in me knew that this was an incredibly important night. Something wonderful had happened, right there in my stable. I knew even then, that the world had changed. Tomorrow, was going to be a brand new day, and nothing would ever be the same again.
Well, that’s my story. I know it’s a bit hard to believe. But that’s the way it happened. And 30 years later, that baby had grown up into a man we called Jesus. He went all around our country, telling everyone that God had a new plan for human beings. He told us that God wanted us to learn how to love one another, and that love would bring peace on earth, just the way that the angels sang. Eventually, the powerful people grew afraid of him. And they killed him. But three days later, another miracle happened, and he rose up out of his grave – to prove to everyone that God is actually in charge, not the rich and powerful.
Yes, my friends. Nothing’s ever going to be the same. Tomorrow really is a brand new day!