TITLE: Making Room - A Christmas Story
By Joshua Janoski
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I was riding my donkey into Bethlehem, the small town in which I had spent most of my youth. Business matters had prevented me from making many trips to the town where I grew up as a child. I had been a merchant in Jerusalem for all of my adult years. I sold clay pitchers and pots at the city bazaar in order to provide for my family which consisted of my wife and two sons. Money was tight, and unfortunately my situation wasn’t getting any easier, as every citizen was required to pay tribute to the Roman Empire. It was because of this taxation, that I had to travel down to Bethlehem and register myself in order to be counted by the Romans. I really didn’t want to take the chance of upsetting Caesar Augustus by not including myself in his Census.
I decided to fill my satchels and load them up on my donkey right away. It was during events like these that small towns and cities got crowded and congested. I wanted to be sure to find a decent place to stay. I kissed my wife and children goodbye and set out a few days early. I decided that I would spend the extra time visiting my extended family that was still living in Bethlehem. I needed a break from the hectic life of peddling goods, and I concluded that this little trip would give me the rest that I needed.
Upon entering the town, I headed straight to the local inn. The innkeeper had known me from childhood. He was very gracious and offered me his best room located on the top floor. I led my donkey to the stable that was behind the inn, and I gave him some fresh grain to enjoy. I went up to my room and went to sleep.
I spent the next few days taking care of business and visiting my family. I was enjoying my stay, but I missed my wife and children, and so I planned on leaving for Jerusalem the next day. Nightfall came, and I was heading up the stairs to my room when a knock came on the inn door. The innkeeper got up out of his chair to answer the knock. I curiously watched from the stairway. He pulled open the door, and standing there was a handsome young man and a beautiful young woman. Both appeared to be very tired, and the woman appeared to be bearing a child. The man asked the innkeeper if he and his wife could please have a room for the night, because they were both exhausted from traveling from Nazareth and his wife was with child and needed to rest. I heard the innkeeper apologize and explain to the couple that all of his rooms were currently full and that he had no room for them.
At that moment, a part of me wanted to speak up and offer my room, but before any words could come out of my mouth, I had stopped myself. I thought about how I had paid good money for this room, and how I was deserving of a goodnight’s sleep. I was just as tired as anyone else, and had I not arrived in town early, no one else would have given their room up for me. A selfishness had hit me that I would later on regret, but at the time, I felt like I was entitled to my warm bed and cover. Besides, I heard the innkeeper mention to the couple that they could stay in the stable he had out back. It wasn’t like they didn’t have at least some place to stay.
I lay down, and started to fall asleep, but something kept me from being able to rest. I tossed and I turned as I thought about the young man and woman. There was something different about them, especially the woman. As I began to try and decipher what was strange about the young couple, I was startled by a noise. Through my window came the faint sound of a baby crying, and a bright light shined in to my room. It was so bright that I had to shield my eyes from it. I made my way over to the window, and I gazed up into the sky. A bright start loomed high above me. It was the biggest and brightest star I had ever seen! It hung in the Heavens above the stable that sat outside behind the inn. I got dressed and ran downstairs. I went out the front door and then crept around the side of the inn. I heard noise. It sounded like a couple of young men were talking with great excitement. As I got closer to the stable, I smelled a stench coming from the animals that stayed there. However, my attention was quickly diverted from the smell as I looked upon the stable. There stood several shepherds in front of a wooden manger. Inside the manger was a baby, and standing around the baby was the young man and woman that had asked for the room earlier that evening. Everyone was smiling including my donkey and the other animals that lay looking at the infant.
I slowly approached the stable and the shepherds. One shepherd turned to me and stepped aside. He gestured for me to go forward. I looked down at the baby. He lay there in swaddling clothes. His face glowed with the bright light that was beaming down onto him from the star high in the sky. At that moment, I knew that something special was taking place, though I wasn’t quite sure what it was. I stood looking at the child for what seemed like hours. I didn’t want to leave his presence. I finally decided that I needed to get some rest, so I said farewell to the man, woman, and shepherds and went back to my room. Again, I could have offered the room to them, but I really didn’t want to stay in the stables with the animals. Besides, they seemed quite content with where they were and the baby seemed very happy being there. Sleep came over me, and the next day I returned to my family.
The years passed by, and every once in a while I would think about the child that I saw lying in that manger. I wonder what had happened to him. Where did he go? What life did he end up leading? Why did he seem so special? I found myself traveling a lot in my later years selling my wares to people in other cities. One day, I was heading back to Jerusalem, and I found myself traveling near the hill of Golgotha. I saw a crowd gathered around what appeared to be a set of three crosses stationed on the hill. Being the curious person that I was, I made my way up the hill to see what everyone was looking at. I pushed my way through the crowd that stood there until I was close to the three crosses.
My body froze as I raised my head up at the middle cross. Hanging from it was a man with a crown of thorns upon his head. A sign above his head stated that his name was Jesus and that he was King of the Jews. His head hang low as he struggled to take each breath. His body was beaten and bruised far worst than any other criminal I had seen the Romans crucify before. Something told me that this man was guilty of no crime. Suddenly my mind began to think back about that night in Bethlehem. The image of the smiling baby turned into the image of a man suffering extreme pain and agony. The wooden manger turned into a wooden cross. That bright light shining down from the Heavens was now covered by the dark gray storm clouds that swirled in the sky.
I remembered how I had selfishly rejected that baby and would make no room for him. Now I stood before a man wondering why he was being forced to endure such pain and suffering. It was at that moment that he raised his head ever so slightly and looked at me with his blood covered eyes. I heard a voice whisper to me “I’m doing this for you. Will you now make room for me?” I began to tremble. I fell weak to my knees before the old wooden cross. All of the past wrongs I had committed came to my remembrance. I thought about how I had been so selfish. I thought about how I was only concerned about making a profit for myself, and I didn’t care who else around me was struggling. I had shown no love or compassion to those around me. I felt so dirty.
Tears streamed down my face as I sat on my knees in the dirt before the dying man that they called Jesus. “I will make room for you!” I cried out. “You are welcome into my life!” A drop of blood fell off of the crown of thorns and landed on my head. I felt as though I was being washed clean. It felt as if I was being transformed into a new person. The thunder roared and the lightning struck down from the Heavens. I got up and headed home.
It is now, in my old age, that I am able to say that I understand exactly what that baby had came here for. He didn’t come to be born in a palace, though he deserved to be treated like royalty. He didn’t come to dine at a table with kings, though he himself was the King of Kings. Instead, he came to show the world what true love really is by giving man the greatest gift of all – himself, and all he asks is that we open our hearts and make room for him.
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