The Inn – Chapter 3
This story came to me one evening while sitting inside a ‘living Christmas tree’ at Fellowship in the Pass Church in Beaumont, California. It’s a long story and you’re about to read one, so I’ll explain later.
But it occurred to me that no one had ever really tried telling the nativity story from perhaps one of the most misunderstood characters in a relevant Biblical story – the Inn Keeper. I’ve had a few people read it and give input over the years, and I even tried having a theater-type guy take a look at it, but he never got around to it due to his schedule. (Yeah, you know who you are!) So what you read may not be polished as well as it could be. But I did feel it necessary to share this story this Christmas season.
Each chapter will follow in it’s own file.
And so here is my take on the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Elisheva, Shimon and Tehila worked their way through the marketplace, picking up the last of the needed supplies for the inn. Cooking for her family and the guests of the inn was a large task, but one that she and a few neighbor girls managed to keep up with.
“Elisheva!” came a booming voice from across the bazaar. “How are you and Chaim?”
The salutation came from Ahron, a vendor of dates and figs. A potbellied man with a large beard, Ahron had a personality as big as his waist. He had known Elisheva and her husband since they were youths, and loved any chance he had to speak with them and reminisce. He signaled them over to his stand with large circular motions of his hands and arms.
“Come! Come! How have you been?” he exclaimed, moving out from behind his stall’s table to greet his friend. “And how is this little one?”
Ahron reached down to scoop up Tehila in his arms. The young girl gave the bearded man a hug, then leaned back to get a better view of his face.
“We’re good! Very, very good!” shouted Tehila with a smile that stretched from ear to ear. “When are you coming to play again?”
Ahron glanced at the girl for a moment, acting as though he were surprised. But after as brief moment, his smile matched her own.
“Well, my dear,” speaking to the girl as though he were telling her a not-very-secret secret, “when I get the chance to get away from this market and my chores, our families will celebrate the Fest of Tabernacles together and thank Jehova for His wondrous provision! We will honor our God with the lulav and etrog, and I will prepare one of my turkeys for the feast. And yes Tehila, we will play and celebrate the love of Jehova.”
Tehila’s eyes lit up, and then let her exuberance bubble over onto Ahron again.
“Mommy says that God is going to send his May-suh, uh, Muh-si-uh to save us some day,” she said, stuttering over the word and trying desperately to get it right.
“That is right, my child! That is right!” exclaimed the jolly man, bouncing Tehila in his arms. Quickly, Ahron gave the girl another hug and let her slip down to the ground. He turned around and plucked a date from his stall, handing it to Tehila and patting her on the head.
“Thank you Ahron, that is very kind of you,” said Elisheva. Their families had always been close, and Ahron — even though he was a grown man — was more like child than most children. He had a happy, joyful spirit that overflowed no matter what the circumstance. “How have you and your family been? It has been too long since we sat together and ate,” she said.
“Ah, that it has,” responded Ahron. “And it is something that we must correct, just as I told your daughter.” Now his tone turned more serious, almost as that of a counselor. “And what of Chaim? How has he been since I saw him last?”
“He is good,” she responded thoughtfully. “He remains the same, as always, as steady as a rock.”
“Well, that came be a good thing, I suppose. Do I take that to mean that he is still at odds with God over his past?” asked Ahron, in a disappointed tone. “Will that man’s anger never cease?”
Elisheva sighed. “I don’t know Ahron. Sometimes I think it will, but then something comes along that seems to refresh his anger anew. Like this morning with Tehila talking about her dream and the Messiah…”
“Elisheva, it is a good thing for your child to speak of Jehova and His promised one,” Ahron admonished her confidently. “Chaim suffered greatly a long time ago, and only God will be able to break his heart to let in the truth.”
Elisheva broke her gaze with Ahron and looked at the ground, only for a moment. She looked back up, this time with a small tear forming in the corner of her eye.
“I hope you are right Ahron. It pains me to see him keep blaming God for what happened to him.”
Ethan had been standing at a distance since his mother and Tehila had seen Ahron and moved to his stall, but the boy was not so far off that he couldn’t hear what was said by the jovial friend of his family. He now cut through the hustle and bustle of the passers by to join the conversation, carrying a basket of fruit.
“Hello sir. Mother, I have the fruit we came for. Is there anything else we need before we go home?”
Ahron broke the conversation with Elisheva to look at Ethan as he approached. “And what of this one, is he still following in his father’s footsteps?”
“Footsteps?” questioned Ethan.
“He means, are you still taking on your father’s doubts about God,” explained Elisheva. “Well, are you?”
Ethan thought for a moment, letting his gaze fall somewhere between him and his mother. “Well… I just don’t understand why God would punish father for nothing. Why He would take his father and mother and make him suffer so much.”
Ahron let a small smile come to his face, as he clearly understood what the boy was going through. He reached across to grasp his shoulder as he spoke.
“Ethan, have you not heard the story of Job and his wondrous faith? Of how he suffered much, but did so to the glory of God? Have you not been told this story?”
“Yes sir, I have,” said Ethan. “But I have never understood why God would make someone to suffer so much, only to give it back to him in greater number. Why was it necessary for God to do that to him? And why has He done it to my father?”
“Ethan,” said Ahron, steadying the boy and attempting to calm his growing emotion, “God used Job to show his people and Satan who was in charge, and what one man and his faith had the power to do. Job never gave up his faith in God, even when his wife and friends begged him to. Maybe this tragedy in your father’s past is a test of his faith as well.”
“But why him?”
“I don not know why,” said Ahron. “I’m sure that Job did not know why he was being tested when he was in the midst of affliction, but his faith ensured that God would provide for him — regardless of what came. In time, I’m sure God will make it evident to your father why he has seen and experienced what he has.”
Ethan pondered the response for a moment, and sought to form one of his own. But, it wouldn’t come.
“Ahron is right, Ethan,” Elisheva interjected. “God will reveal Himself to your father, and then the choice will be up to him.”
Tehila wandered back to the group, leaving a couple of marketplace playmates as their parents gathered their goods and left.
“Mother, are we ready to go yet? There is no one left to play with.”
“Yes, Tehila, we are,” her mother answered, showering a loving smile down on her daughter.
“You have too much to carry,” said Ahron, gesturing to two of his boys. “Avi, Tevya, help my friends carry these goods to their home. And take care to listen to whatever Elisheva tells you, or I will hear of it!”
Ahron gave Elisheva a wink as the two boys helped her and Ethan lighten their load. “Goodbye! May the God of Isaac, Abraham and Jacob bless your house and all those who dwell there.”
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
It was midday when Elisheva, Ethan, Tehila and the two boys returned to the Inn from the marketplace. The young girl ran ahead as they approached the rear door, looking to find her father. As she rounded the corner from the kitchen to their living room she saw her father sitting with her grandparents, Ilan and Ofra.
“Bubbee! Zaydee!” exclaimed Tehila, the young girl’s face lighting up and she raced to embrace them. Her grandparents hugged her warmly and kissed her cheeks. “We were just at the market place!”
“That is what your father was telling us child,” Ilan said gently. “Did you make sure your mother has enough for to feed everyone at the inn during the census?”
Ilan shot his daughter a wink and Elisheva smiled. “I think we have enough to feed all of Bethlehem for a day. God has provided wonderfully for us.”
Chaim glanced at his wife as he got up from his chair, giving her a frustrated look. “Well since you have arrived I will prepare a room for your parents. While you were gone we have had the inn filling. Shimon and I were barely able to complete our repairs.”
Elisheva moved to her husband and embraced him, looking into his eyes and smiling. “This is a good thing my husband, yes?”
“Of course it is,” he replied. “But with profit also comes more work.”
“Well I have already prepared a room for them, so you have a little less work to do, my husband,” she said. “So you can rest a little yourself.”
Shimon had stood by quietly, but now determined that if he were to have any fun today he had better speak up now.
“Father, my work will not come until later, correct?” the boy asked sheepishly. “May I go and play with my friends until evening?”
Elisheva felt Chaim stiffen in preparation to deliver a rebuke, but caught his glance and smiled. She could always soften him with that look, and she used it now to give her youngest son a break. After a moment, Chaim relaxed and relented.
“Yes,” he said grudgingly. “You need to check the stable and water the animals. But if all else there is in order, you may go. But be back no later than sunset.”
A few moments later he caught wife completely by surprise. “And Ethan, after you help your mother put away the food you may have some time with your friends as well. There still may be a few fish left to catch today.”
The room grew quiet as everyone looked at Chaim in shock.
“What?” he said, his face turning from a slight smile to a forced scowl. “Can I not be generous every now and then? Besides, they will have plenty of work to keep them busy soon enough.”
Shimon shot out the door before his father could change his mind.
“Thank you father,” said a surprised Ethan, and moved to the kitchen to quickly complete his tasks.
Chaim called after them, “Your are welcome. But remember, sunset!”
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
Elisheva led her parents upstairs to their room. Like the other rooms of the inn, it was small with a bed, a table and a few chairs. But knowing that her parents would be coming, Elisheva had made sure to have everything just right, including some flowers on the table.
Ofra looked over the room and then to her daughter, a broad smile covering her face. “So how are you my daughter? All appears to be well with you and Chaim and the inn.”
“We are always busy,” said Elisheva. “But you know Chaim. He does his work and takes care of us all very well, but he never lets his guard down for a moment. I was surprised he let the boys off to go with the other children.”
Ofra took her daughter’s face in her hands gently. “He will Eli. He will. When he least expects it, God will show him His heart. I know He will show Chaim His love.”
“And when He does, my daughter,” Ilan added, “Chaim’s heart will soften. I would not have had you marry a man that I did not think was capable of knowing God’s love.”
Elisheva smiled at her parents and sighed. “I just hope that it is soon. Sometimes I fear that his heart will turn to stone, and that the boys will follow after him to the same fate.”
Ilan moved closer, putting his arm around his daughter’s waist, “Jehova has not abandoned His people, including your husband. We have prayed for Chaim continually and know that Jehova will find a way to turn his heart back to Him.”
Elisheva looked lovingly at her parents and then hugged each in turn. “I hope you are right father. I just hope it is soon.”
“I will leave you two to rest. I will see you at supper.”
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
As Elisheva emerged from the stairwell, she saw Chaim speaking with couple and explaining the rules of staying at the inn.
“We have a few things to take care of in the market before returning for our room this evening,” said the man. “Is that acceptable?”
“Certainly,” said Chaim. “Your room will be waiting when you return.”
As the man and his wife left, Elisheva approached Chaim and embraced him. “Was that what I think it was my husband?”
“Yes. Yes it was,” he replied, somewhat shocked. “We have sold every room in the inn for the night. I cannot remember a time that we sold out so early in the day.”
Elisheva leaned back and smiled at her husband. “This is marvelous! I shall get to work on the evening meal.” She kissed Chaim’s cheek, moved away from him and into the kitchen.
Chaim stood motionless, surveying the inn’s outer room with his eyes. Business had never been this good. While Roman rule caused a number of hardships for Israel, it seemed that this decree of a census might actually benefit his family.
After a few moments, Chaim’s face once again turned slightly stern. “Well,” he said under his breath, “with something good there always seems to be something bad to follow. We will have to wait and see what our curse is this time.”