The Inn – Chapter 1
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.
Dawn always came early to the City of David, as it sat atop the mountains facing the east and the Wilderness of Judea. The valley majestically rolled out before Bethlehem, with the Dead Sea shimmering like a blanket of gems in the early morning light.
The sun poured over the small town, waking its citizenry from their peaceful slumber. The rays worked their way into the windows of the small inn towards the back of the city. It was here that Chaim awoke with the dawn each day to begin the work of providing for his wife, Elisheva, and their children.
He rolled out of their bed, trying not to wake his wife too early. She, like him, would have more than enough work to keep her busy and he knew she could use all the rest she could get. Chaim slipped on his sandals and quietly moved across the floor to the door, exiting the room and heading toward the front of the inn.
Chaim made his way to the family’s water supply, drawing a ladle full from the bucket and take a long drink. He let the cool water trickle down his throat in satisfaction, looking out at the rising sun between gulps as it shone brightly through the window.
As promising as most days seemed with every new sunrise, Chaim only wondered what work each day would bring. And no matter how much business the small inn did, it never seemed enough to satisfy him. His mood was always mixed with a scent of bitterness that seemed to have no end. And in Chaim’s mind, it never would.
His few moments of solitude were quickly broken by the sound of his daughter, Tehila, bounding through the door to find someone else awake.
“Good morning father!” exclaimed the little 8-year-old, as she jumped into her father’s arms.
“Good morning Tehila,” he responded thoughtfully, in a low tone, allowing the ladle in his hands to plunge back into the bucket with a splash. “How did you sleep last night?”
She could hardly contain her excitement. “Not very good father! I was so excited all night I could hardly sleep!”
“Excited? About what?” he inquired. “And try to keep your voice down, your mother and brothers are still sleeping.”
“I don’t know father,” Tehila replied in a loud whisper, trying futilely to contain her emotions and getting a little louder with every word. “Every time I’d fall asleep, I’d have a wonderful dream and then wake up again!”
Chaim was glad to see his daughter so excited, but was still trying to keep her from waking the rest of the inn just yet. But it was all in vain.
“Be quieter my child,” he exhorted her in a stern whisper. “Now, what is this dream that kept waking you all night?”
Tehila hunched over so as to be quieter. It seemed to help, but only for a few moments.
“I don’t know exactly father,” she bubbled over in an excited whisper. Her father looked perplexed. “I would see a baby and then everyone was singing and shouting and they were so excited. And all of these people in white, with wings, were flying in the night sky and singing. How could one baby make everyone so happy, father?”
Chaim’s countenance dimmed, and he stared out the window blankly.
“One baby can’t do that, Tehila. No one can.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that my husband.” The voice was clearly that of Elisheva as she entered the room. “I think you know better than that, don’t you?”
Chaim’s face now turned stern, bordering on angry.
“No. I believed that there might be someone like that a long time ago, but that was before I learned that God has forsaken us to ourselves,” he said with a scowl. “That was before…”
“Chaim!” exclaimed Elisheva, taking Tehila from him quickly and covering the young girl’s ears awkwardly. “Do not poison your daughter with your bitterness. You may not think so, but God has been gracious to us, and one day His Messiah will come. Maybe not when we expect it, or even before we die, but He will come.”
Elisheva dropped Tehila to the ground, where she landed and immediately looked back up to her mother.
“What’s a May-suh mother?” said Tehila, reaching up to try and put her arms around Elisheva’s neck.
Elisheva looked to Chaim, who turned away with a solemn look and headed out the door. “I have work to do after last night,” he said.
Elisheva looked back down at her inquiring daughter. “The Messiah is God’s promised one, who will deliver His people and establish His kingdom on this earth. He will come to reign over us and to love us.”
Tehila looked perplexed. It was obvious that the wheels in her mind were working hard to figure out what that all meant, but she just couldn’t sort it out.
“So how could a little baby do all that?” she asked innocently.
Elisheva looked at her daughter for a moment, knowing there was no single answer that would explain it all, at least not to an inquisitive 8-year-old.
“With God’s help and power and love, Tehila,” she said giving her daughter a warm embrace. “The same way we do all the things God wants us to do everyday.”
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
Chaim sat at the stool near his tools and looked at the chairs and tables lying in need of repair. A few of the guests the night before had returned to the inn after drinking far too much. Words had been exchanged, threats made and before long a fight ensued. In the melee the combatants had thrown each other around their rooms and the hallways of the inn, breaking furniture and causing Chaim to have to send for the centurions. The guards from the Roman Cohort stopped the fight and carted the men off into the night, but not before the men had damaged several pieces of furniture along the way.
But his mind was hardly on the work at hand. Instead, Chaim’s conversation with Elisheva and Tehila a few moments before had got him thinking back to how he had inherited the inn. It was nothing pleasant, and the whole event had stained Chaim’s being all the way to his soul.
Chaim had worked at the inn with his father and mother, Nahal and Raisa. Like he did now, they ran it as a family and it provided well for them. Chaim was courting Elisheva then, and Nahal would constantly remind Chaim that one day he would have to either find a way to provide for his family on his own, or wait for him to grow old or die so that he could take over the family business. At the time, Chaim had no idea how close to reality his father’s latter suggestion really was.
One night, after his parents had purchased a substantial amount of food and supplies for the inn, robbers broke in and looted the goods. Nahal had caught them in the act, and in the process of trying to stop them was killed. The robbers then decided that they should make sure there were no witnesses, and set about killing Chaim’s mother and four younger brothers. Chaim fought bravely, and his life was spared only when the Roman guards showed up and stopped the attack.
For many months afterward Chaim was in a deep depression, questioning God as to why such a horrible thing to was allowed to happen and why he was left alive to deal with it. Chaim’s parents had always held true to all of the Jewish practices and sacrifices, and had spent a great deal of time engraining them into Chaim and his brothers.
He had always believed that God would send His Messiah to the Hebrews, and that they would be His servants when He came to establish His kingdom on earth. Back then, Chaim longed to be alive and see it firsthand. Now, it seemed that everything that his parents had taught him was a lie. How could a God that loved His people allow this to happen to one of them, much less a whole family? It made no sense, and Chaim determined that it never would.
With great sorrow, ownership of the inn had passed to Chaim. And while it provided a way for his soon-to-be wife and he to support themselves, it served as a constant reminder that God had deserted him and his family after a lifetime of worship and service.
As he sat staring at the projects that he had before him, he felt the sorrow and anger wash over him again. And as he did so, Chaim felt the betrayal burn in him once more. He wasn’t angry with Elisheva for correcting him or even telling Tehila that the Messiah would come one day. He felt disappointment that his daughter and two boys, Ethan and Shimon, would grow up with a faith that was misplaced at best. But he figured that they, like him, would eventually figure out that either it was all a lie or that God just took delight in toying with those who chose to follow Him.