My name is Simon. I am, rather was an innkeeper in Bethlehem many years ago.
You see, Caesar demanded a census be taken. Each person was to return to their cities to be counted.
Talk about an idea situation for me. People arrived from all over the known world. And I had the largest Inn in Bethlehem. I had my son Judas help and we made simple partitions that separated one room into two.
We had to make room, didn't we? Oh, it's true the thought of such wealth was nearly as intoxicating as a fine wine. Judas and I labored many days before our - guests - arrived. If all went well, I would be a rich man. Oh, the parties, the wealth, the camels, the honor - me Simon a rich man.
Oh, the envy my neighbors would feel toward me. They'd call me Simon the Clever, Simon the Wise, Simon the Wealthy. Ah, yes, well the people arrived and arrived and they kept on arriving until even the corners in my kitchen were rented.
And the food? Why, I charged twice as much and even then people asked for more.
I sent Judas to the countryside to find more meat, bread and eggs. Before he could leave there was yet another knock at the door.
"No, no, no there is no room in my Inn," I began and then under my breath I chuckled and said, "although I wished there were," turning toward the couple before me I said, "there is not another pallet, cot, let alone bed available tonight."
The couple explained their situation and the need for lodging.
"Oh, well - your wife is with child," I began, "I am sorry, there really is no room. Yes, I know that it is cold, but what can I do. So many dignitaries sent their servant ahead to acquire their lodging. I, I - well what can I do?" I asked in frustration.
It was then that a thought occurred to me, "Sir, wait please, It's not much, but I do have a stable out back. It's in the side of the hill. I could let you stay there. It is true, there are animals, perhaps they will help keep the stable warm."
The couple began to make their way to the stable but my stable had to be worth something.
"Sir," I called out, "there is the matter of the fee for the night's lodging. That will be," I paused, "three pieces of silver for the night."
My son Judas was learning the family trade. His keen eyes and ears took in all that happened that night of riches. Three more pieces of silver than I had thought possible.
That night was the best night of my life - or so I thought. I was even able to sell an old camel to a traveler for three times what it was worth. The money I gained would provide well for my family and I made no apology for my greed at the time.
However, all these years later, I see the grievous error of my greed. I never got all the things I thought would make me the richest man in town. Today, someone else has all my silver and I have very little.
I had conducted games of chance and for a price would do things for other people that were not exactly kosher. Perhaps this was not the way a boy like Judas should live, and yet what choice did I have.
I now know that I had many choices, yet I chose the easy way - riches quickly gained, yet quickly lost.
Judas grew up and in time I could tell that he was just like his papa. He learned to convince people that their money should be his.
Then he met a man. I later learned that this was the same man, who as a baby, was born in my stable so many years before.
I saw a change in my son. Since he had handled money all his life, they made him their treasurer. I was ashamed as I sensed a change in my son that I did not see in my own life. I had charged his leaders parents for a stable - a STABLE mind you. Shame grips me even now.
We all began to hear more and more about this man and his rag-tag followers.
My son took Jesus to task one time about a bottle of perfume used to anoint his feet. That was my boy - no waste. Like Judas said, "the money made from the sale of the perfume could be used to help the sick and the needy that followed Jesus."
However, Jesus corrected by son, and believe me when I say that Judas did not like being corrected. I wonder if that's when it all began?
As Jesus fame grew, those who loved him really loved him, while those that didn't care for him, well, let's just say they wanted him jailed. There was even discussion of his death.
I, on the other hand, had very little opinion, other than what was to happen to my son Judas.
One day I was wandering the streets of Jerusalem on my way to my brother Jacobs house for Passover, I saw this man Jesus riding a donkey. The people were throwing down palm branches and coats so that his donkey's feet never touched the ground.
Looking at the scene I felt that this man was going to change the world. The people seemed to love him so much. This too would change.
With Jesus in town, I knew I would find my son. Perhaps we could catch up on our time apart.
I followed the crowd and when I discovered where Jesus and his disciples were to stay, I marked the place in my memory and thought to return the next day. The sun was going down and it would not do to be out after dark. A few days of revelry would pass before I made it back. As I drew close I saw my son and was about to call his name when I saw his face. He looked greatly disturbed, so I followed him.
After a few twists and turns I saw him go into the temple. there was nothing unusual in this - it was Passover. But I waited. I saw Judas leave the temple by a little used entrance with a jingling bag in hand.
I wished to God that I had confronted Judas then, but I had waited. The next time I saw Judas he had Roman Guards and Jewish officials with him, they went to a garden near Jerusalem. I watched with surprise as I saw my son kiss Jesus, and then in horror as I watched Judas step back with the guards and Jesus was taken away.
Why would my son do this? What had Jesus done to deserve my sons betrayal? I had heard of Jesus' miracles and healing - now this. Judas had seemed so changed.
Jesus turned and looked at my son. There was no hatred in his eyes, just a look that remains with me to this day. Was it pity? Perhaps sorrow? My son ran off into the darkness, "Judas," I cried out.
He stopped and turned to me, fear was transparent in his haunted eyes. All he said to me was, "Father, I have betrayed the Master for thirty pieces of silver. What shall become of me?" He cried as he ran into the darkness. I learned of his death the next day. They say he hung himself. He tried to give the money back but they refused and tossed him out of the temple.
How much I feel the blame. Judas was my son. He learned his sinful ways from me. His betrayal of Jesus was my betrayal. As the prophet Amos writes in the Holy Scripture, "This is what the Lord says, for three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. They sell the righteous for silver."
Yet, even an old man can be forgiven. This same Jesus who was born in my stable came because he knew of Judas sins - he knew of mine.
His death was the only sacrifice God would accept for the sins of his people.
I am one of Jesus followers now, nearly a year after he rose from the dead. I saw him as a child, as a man and now as my Savior. And He has forgiven me.
My son Judas never understood who He was until it was too late.
To me, Jesus being born in my stable gives me hope that this child born to humble means is the same child that delivered this greedy old thief from death. For that I am grateful beyond words.
For the God that became man, became my salvation. And to think that He caught His first glimpse of this earth in a mangy stable behind my Inn. And yet he loves, and yet He died for me and still He lives.
If this story brings hope please understand it is only by God's grace that this Innkeeper can tell you a story of Christmas past and the hope of Christmas present and a future that will allow me to see Jesus yet again.