The Inn – Chapter 2
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.
The sound of Ethan and Shimon exiting the inn and joining him in the work area broke Chaim’s introspection. Startled, he looked them over, unable to find any words for the moment.
“Father, mother said you were out here and would need our help,” stated Ethan, the older of the two. After a few silent moments passed, he looked his father over more closely. “Father, are you all right?”
Chaim tried a second time to break his thought-induced silence, this time with success.
“Yes. Yes Ethan, I’m fine. Just thinking about things, that’s all,” he said in a sort of broken speech. “Are you two ready to get to work?”
“Not really,” said Ethan. “I’d rather go down to the river with my friends and fish. Could I go, please?”
Chaim shot him a disapproving look. Ethan knew better, especially after last night and the brawl. Somewhere deep in the back of his mind he remembered what it was to be a teenager, but Chaim couldn’t let that become an excuse for his eldest to not learn the things that had to be done to run the inn, especially in case something ever happened to him.
And with that single glance, Ethan knew he was going nowhere.
“With Ethan here, you don’t need me, do you?” Shimon offered innocently. Standing behind Ethan, almost out of sight of his father, he figured now was his best chance to see if he could escape work for a day.
“Actually Shimon, you are going to be doing most of this work,” Chaim said flatly. “Your mother is going to the market place later, and she will need Ethan to go with her to carry her purchases.”
Shimon’s expectant smile quickly faded into disappointment. Ethan allowed a small grin to escape his lips, but hid it when his father looked to him to hold one of the table legs in place.
“Hold that steady for me while I replace the wedge to repair it,” commanded Chaim. And with a nod of his head, assigned his younger son to another task. “Shimon, you can get started on one of those stools over there.”
Chaim sought to lineup the chair leg and place the wedge at the proper angle to secure it in its hole. He had done this a thousand times it seemed, as things breaking around the inn seemed to be the norm.
“Father, what had Tehila up last night?” Ethan inquired; trying hard to hold the table leg where thought his father needed it.
“Some dream she had,” he said, continuing to work.
“It wasn’t just some dream father,” exclaimed Tehila as she bounded from the house and into the early morning sun. “It was the most wonderful dream I’ve ever had! It was so pretty and everyone was so happy!”
“Are you sure you weren’t just dreaming about your doll again,” interjected Shimon from the back of the work stall, looking to illicit a reaction from his sister.
“You leave me and my doll alone Shimon!” she shouted, turning to look at him with a cross expression and her hands on her hips. “Well, since my dream was so good, I think she would have been very happy about it too … if I could only find her to see it.”
“Yeah, well that’s one doll that ain’t ever gonna see anything, at least not for a while,” thought Shimon as he chuckled to himself. Being the family antagonist, he had his hid sister’s doll in the bottom of a grain basket where it would be found … eventually.
Chaim looked at his daughter, and then to his younger son, conveying a look of disapproval to the latter. He knew that Shimon knew where Tehila’s doll was, but what was he to do. At that age, Chaim knew he was involved in the same kind of mischief with his own siblings.
Chaim began hammering the wedge into the chair leg as Elisheva came out of the house, dressed and ready for her journey into the marketplace.
“So, is my strong-backed son ready to go yet?” She asked, looking over their project.
“He will be in a minute, mother,” replied Chaim. “I just need to get this table ready. It was the only one broken badly last night. Shimon and I can handle the chairs and other things that need repair.”
A few more whacks with the hammer and the leg was secure. Ethan helped his father turn the table upright, and both put a little weight on it to check its sturdiness. A quick glance at each other and they knew it was ready to go back inside the inn.
“Okay mother, he is all yours,” proclaimed Chaim. “And you,” he said turning on one heel and pointing at Shimon, “are mine!”
The boy stopped his work for the moment to look at his father, knowing that there would be little playing today. He bent back over and got back to working on the small stool’s broken leg.
“Come on Tehila,” said Elisheva, starting to walk away, an ever-growing grin spreading over her face. “When we get back, we’ll get your doll out of the grain basket in the kitchen.”
Tehila shot an angry look back at Shimon, who looked dumb struck at his mother as she grabbed the girl’s hand and led her out the gate. “How could she have known?” he mumbled to himself.
“She always knows,” said Chaim. “That’s what mother’s do.”
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
The walk through the morning sun was pleasant, and Elisheva loved the sounds, scents and activity of the market. Her trips to get food and supplies for the inn were one of her rare chances to see friends and socialize, even with two children in tow.
As they neared the first few stalls, Tehila began questioning her mother.
“Do you really think that God will send us a May-Suh to save us,” she queried.
“That’s Messiah, my beautiful little girl,” Elisheva said laughing and placing her hand on Tehila’s head. “He promised us He would, and God has never lied to us before.”
“But why does father not think that the May-Si-uh will come?” she continued.
Elisheva decided to think about her answer carefully, but that only provided a chance for Ethan to jump in with his own response.
“Because God failed him when he was little,” he said with a snap, “and He hasn’t exactly taken great care of us, has He?”
“Ethan!” exclaimed his mother, stepping right into his path and pushing her face in front of his. “Watch yourself! Do not dare take that tone when speaking of Jehovah! Where did you get such an idea, or hear such a thing?”
But before she had asked the question, she knew the answer. Her husband had never been one to hide his emotions or his opinions. And from the look on his face, Elisheva knew that Ethan had inherited some his father’s lack of faith, if nothing else than by example.
The two stood close for a few moments before Ethan dropped his eyes to look at the dust. He felt slightly ashamed, knowing he had hurt his mother, still wanting to expound on his beliefs, but knowing that now was not the time to fight the battle.
Elisheva, knew turmoil that must be going on in Shimon’s head and felt the anger with her eldest son begin to subside, giving way to a mother’s love and her need to let him grow up … even if it was just a little bit at a time.
“Ethan,” she said, putting her hand to his chin and raising his eyes to meet her own, “What do we need that we do not have?”
She searched his eyes, and could tell that he was searching over a laundry list of things that he thought they should have, but didn’t really need.
“Ethan, God gives us what we need and even more,” she said. “God gives us food, clothing, a place to live. You do not see us sitting at the gate of the city and begging, do you?”
Ethan looked down, but did not attempt to remove his head from his mother’s hand. After a few moments, he shook his head in acknowledgement.
“And we have a wonderful family. Your father, brother and even your little sister,” she continued.
“Yeah! You have me! Don’t forget about me!” Tehila yelled, moving to his side and squeezing his leg with all the strength her small arms could muster “I love you Ethan!”
Ethan looked down at his sister as his mother released his chin and looked down at Tehila as well. Both smiled, but then Ethan’s face turned serious again as he looked back at his mother.
“But mother,” he said in a questioning tone, “why would God take father’s family from him they He did? Why would He make someone suffer the way He made father suffer?”
Elisheva could feel the conflict in her son. She knew he wasn’t trying to be disrespectful or just win the point, but he desperately wanted to know why God had apparently acted with such disregard toward his father, and her husband.
“I don’t know for sure Ethan,” she said, cupping his cheek lovingly and softly stroking his skin. “But we do know that God allowed Joseph to be torn away from his family and imprisoned before he was restored to a position of great authority under Pharaoh. And he not only saved the lives of his father and brothers, but of many in Egypt as well when the drought came.”
Elisheva paused, looking her son up and down, then resting back on his face and looking deep into his eyes.
“Maybe, just maybe, God has something as special planned for your father.”
In a quiet voice, Ethan replied, “I hope you are right mother. For father’s sake, I hope you are right.”
“You will see Ethan,” Elisheva said, beginning to smile slightly. “God will show you wondrous things, even if they are the simple things of everyday life.”
A few moments passed and Ethan allowed a small smile to escape his lips as well. But the tender moments lasted only briefly.
“Can we go to the market now?” asked Tehila.
“Yes my daughter,” said her mother, draping her other hand over her shoulder. “We have much to do today and many things to get for the inn. Let’s get going.”
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
By midmorning, Chaim and Shimon had repaired most of the damaged furniture from the previous night’s brawl. The two carried the various pieces of furniture inside and put them in the hallways and rooms from which they came. As Chaim exited one of the rooms, he noticed a man in dark red robes standing at the front of the inn.
Alon stood in the doorway, a commanding presence that seemed to affect everyone around him. He was tall and statuesque, with dark gray hair that showed the number of his years. He looked at Chaim as he entered the room and smiled, the only surviving son of his childhood friend, Nahal.
“Welcome Alon. How are you today?” asked Chaim.
“I feel good, Chaim,” said Alon, moving to Chaim’s side, throwing an arm around his shoulder and smiling. “I hear you had some excitement here last night, is that true?”
Chaim began to retell the story of the night’s event, but knew that the guards had probably told Alon all he needed to know already. It was just like him to know exactly what was going on with his life, even if Chaim never told him. And being one of Bethlehem’s better-known Pharisees, Alon had all the right connections to get the word on anything and anyone that he decided to concern himself with. And for the last 27 years, he had concerned himself with Chaim and his family.
As a young boy, Alon had grown up just a few doors down the road from Chaim’s father. They played together, got in trouble together and even did a little work together. As they got older, they became the best of friends. And when Nahal and his family had been murdered, it was Alon that had come along side Chaim and assumed the role of his father.
Chaim appreciated the effort, but it just wasn’t the same as his own father. He knew that while Alon was a Pharisee and was supposed to know all about God and His laws, that Alon and the other Pharisees rarely kept them unless it was convenient for them to do so. It was frustrating to hear how great and awesome God was, only to have the man telling you do the opposite half the time. And it seemed that no matter what it was that they said God wanted done on earth, or at least in Bethlehem, the Pharisees always seemed to be the ones that benefited the most from it.
“Well, that is an interesting turn of events,” said Alon as Chaim finished his story. “But, it looks like you have the place back in order, do you not?”
“It’s getting there, and it seems just in time as well,” Chaim said, looking out the door and into the busy street.
“Yes, there do seem to be a lot of people in the city these days,” said Alon, seeming to share Chaim’s gaze. “But that is only to be expected with the census taking place. There are many returning to Bethlehem to be counted, and many passing to the north to reach Jerusalem or to the south to Hebron and Bethsura.”
Chaim didn’t really need the geography lesson. He knew the area as we’ll as everyone else did, but his surrogate father wanted to make sure that Chaim knew that he knew.
“Well, hopefully it will mean a good season for us before winter,” Chaim said expectantly. “With any luck, the inn should be filled by sun down.”
“I’m sure God will grant it to you, Chaim,” Alon said, as though he were personally assuring the occurrence. “I must be going now. The Sanhedrin has called a meeting in the temple to discuss some matters of importance and I cannot be late.”
“Alon, has someone committed a crime?” queried Chaim.
“No. I believe it has something to do with prophesy,” said the Pharisee, almost as though it were an annoyance. “Someone claiming they know something of coming events, of prophecies foretold by Micah, that sort of thing. How would it be possible for someone not of the Sanhedrin to know of such things when God’s servants do not? It’s absurd!”
Chaim looked at Alon and wanted to say something, but he knew better. He had far too much work to accomplish to spend time arguing with his is self-appointed surrogate father.
“Well, good luck and safe journey, Alon,” offered Chaim.
Alon took his leave, shooting a ‘thank you’ over his shoulder as he exited the building, waving to someone in the street.