The Inn – Chapter 5 (Finale)
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.
This ending to the The Inn is the best that I could do. After several rewrites and much soul searching it is what God has laid on my heart at the present time. I’m not sure it is ‘the’ ending, but it is what God has laid on my heart at this time.
And so here is my final chapter in the story about the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Chaim was up before the sun the next day, feeling an urgency to simply be awake. He quickly put on his robe and sandals, gently kissed his wife on the forehead and headed for the door.
“Good morning husband,” Elisheva said softly.
“Good morning wife,” he said turning back through the closing door. “I’ll be back shortly. I just want to check on the couple in the stable.”
Chaim walked quickly through the streets to the edge of town, compelled to get to the stable as fast as he could. He didn’t understand it, but he knew that he had to get there. It was still but the lone star that still shone brightly over the city made it appear as midday. As he reached the gate of the city, his eyes caught hold of a sight he had trouble making out.
Still a few hundred yards off, Chaim could see what looked like a heard of small animals near the stables, small hunch-backed creatures with something sticking up from the ground. He searched his mind to try and find something in his memory that matched these creatures, but came up blank. He figured he had better get there quick in case the young couple were in danger.
Chaim’s pace slowed as he neared the stable entrance, as he now could make out what was going on. Reaching the first gate, he stopped dead in his tracks trying to make out the meaning of what he saw.
It became apparent that almost everyone near the opening of the cave was a shepherd, bracing themselves on their staff while on on bended knee and apparently bowing to the young couple and their newborn child.
Thoughts began to race through his mind as to what could have happened. Did the child not survive the birth? Was it not healthy? Did highwaymen descend on them in the night? All looked well, but until he got closer he couldn’t be sure.
Chaim passed through the first gate, securing it behind him. As he approached the pen where the couple resided, the gate had been left open to accommodate the crowd of shepherds now paying them homage. He looked around, and it appeared that even the animals remaining silent and gazing toward the family.
Upon reaching the back of the crowd Chaim stopped, looking through a miniature forest of staffs to see what he could. When he gained his focus he saw the woman, Mary, curled up in the hay with her baby in her lap. The newborn was wrapped in one of the blankets that Elisheva had brought out the night before, and Joseph was kneeling nearby offering comfort to his wife and the child.
It was only then that Chaim realized that he alone was standing, and quickly bent down next to one of the men in the back. He lightly placed his hand on the man’s shoulder to gain his attention and asked, “Why are you all bowing down to this man and his wife? Who are they that they should receive such honor?”
The shepherd slowly turned to look at Chaim, searching his face before eventually locking eyes with him, and then letting a smile crawl across his lips and face.
“It’s not the parents,” whispered the shepherd, “it’s the baby.”
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
Elisheva was startled from her slumber as the bed shook. She was sure the earth had moved until she turned to see Tehila gazing at her in excitement.
“It’s them, mommy! It’s them!” exclaimed the child.
“Who?” said her mother, sitting up quickly and looking around the room. “Where?”
“The baby! From my dream!” she continued. “The people in the stable are his mommy and daddy!”
Still groggy from her sleep, Elisheva tried to process what her daughter was telling her. She could barely make sense of what Tehila was saying. How could these people be the parents of a baby that her daughter only been dreaming about? A baby that would make everyone happy…
“Go and wake your brothers now!” ordered Elisheva. “Tell them to get their robes and sandals! Go!”
It had all suddenly clicked. Chaim had never been one to be overly concerned with the guests, and his going out to check on the young couple seemed odd. But when coupled with Tehila’s dreams and the star, could it be that God was finally going to show her husband what she had long prayed for?
Elisheva threw on her robes and sandals and headed down the hall to wake her parents. They had to find Chaim.
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
A look of disbelief came over Chaim’s face, not really understanding what the shepherd had said. It made no sense to him that these men should worship this man and his wife, much less their child.
“But who are they?” he whispered. “Who is this child that you would worship him?”
“He is God’s Messiah!” said the shepherd quietly, grabbing the lapel of Chaim’s cloak. “He is the Christ!”
Chaim’s head snapped back toward the family and immediately focused on the baby. This is what Israel had been waiting on? This baby was to be a Savior to the Jews? “This shepherd has been in the field alone with his flock far too long,” he thought to himself.
But as he continued to gaze at the child, he was unable to take his eyes off him. He looked like any other child that had entered the world, but there was something about this baby that captivated him. And as he sat there staring, pieces of prophesy from his youth flashed through his head.
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.
He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God…
The shepherd kneeling next to him rose, turned and started to walk back towards the field. Chaim rose and walked after him, grabbing the sleeve of his robe to draw his attention. The shepherd turned and smiled.
“How did you know to come?” asked a bewildered Chaim. “How did you know to find him in my stable?”
“God’s angels appeared to us in the night,” said the shepherd. “They proclaimed his birth and told us that we would find the baby in a manger in swaddling clothes.”
“Angels?” questioned Chaim.
“Yes!” said the shepherd. “They sang of his glory and told us to leave our flocks and to come worship him.”
Chaim was speechless. The shepherd placed his hand firmly on his shoulder and said, “You have seen God’s provision for Israel this night. Rejoice!”
The shepherd turned and began to walk away. As he did, Chaim looked past him and saw that other shepherds were coming toward his stable as well. And as he scanned to see more, he saw his wife Elisheva and the rest of his family coming out from the city. He moved to meet them, intercepting the group about 30 yards from the stable.
His wife gently cupped his face, looking at him with wide eyes and searching his face as though looking for an injury.
“My husband is everything alright?” she asked, looking him and pausing after she knew he was unhurt. “What have you seen?”
Chaim wasn’t sure what to say to her. He looked at his sons and his in-laws before finally settling on the face his daughter, being held by his wife. He quickly glanced over his shoulder to look at the stable and the small family it housed, before looking back at Tehila.
“It’s him, isn’t it daddy?” the girl whispered. “It’s the baby from my dreams isn’t it?”
Chaim paused to think, letting his disbelief get the better of him for the moment. “I wouldn’t know. I cannot see what you dreamed, now can I Tehila?”
“But the people are happy and the people in white, they sang about the baby didn’t they?” she asked.
The question made Chaim’s blood run cold. How could she have known what the shepherd said about the angels? Could his daughter really have dreamed about God’s Messiah and everything that had gone on?
Chaim turned and looked once again at the stable where the couple sat and the shepherds worshiped. His lowly stable was far from a palace and these people anything but warriors. Yet, something inside of him cried out that what he was seeing was God’s provision for Israel. That somehow this child was what his people had been praying and hoping for after hundreds of years.
That this baby was the Son of God.
Chaim slowly started to walk toward the stable and his family followed. A sliver of guilt began to run through him, as he realized that as God’s Messiah, he should have made room in the inn for him and his family. But how could he have known?
As they reached the edge of the stable and entered in to join the rest of those worshiping the newborn baby, Chaim knelt and was joined by his family. He felt Elisheva’s arms rest on his as she bowed her head, and the hand of his father-in-law grasped his shoulder as if to reassure him. He glanced at both before bowing his head to pray.
“God, You know I have had little faith that You would ever fulfill Your promise to send Your Messiah. And You know that I do not understand why You took my family from me as a child. But something about this child, something I cannot explain, makes me believe that he is Your chosen one. I do not understand how or why You chose my family and this stable to bring your Savior for your people into this world. I just need to know what you want me to do?”
Chaim breathed deeply, releasing the air in his lungs slowly as though he had run a long race. He searched his thoughts until they were blank, and then he heard it.
Startled, Chaim’s mind spun as he turned his head slightly both ways to see if he could hear the voice again. But it became clear that it hadn’t come from anyone standing near him, but from within his very being.
Raising his head slowly, Chaim opened his eyes to focus once again on the baby. He looked like any other baby in appearance, but it was now clear to him that this child was unlike any other that had ever been born to man.
Elisheva felt Chaim’s movements, as did Ilan, and raised her head to look at him. “What is it my husband? Are you troubled by something?”
Chaim looked at the ground. He was suddenly aware of all the years he had spent in bitterness, doubting God because his life had not met his expectations. He now knew that God’s expectations were bigger than his disbelief.
“No,” he said, looking at his wife as a small tear rolled down one cheek. “Not any longer.”
Elisheva looked into her husband’s eyes, smiling as warmth washed over her in the realization that God had finally gotten through to him. She cupped his face with her free hand and gently kissed his cheek.
“Yes, I can see that,” she said.
Chaim rose and his family joined him. He put one arm around Elisheva and Tehila and the other around Ethan and Shimon. The boys looked at him not quite understanding what had happened in that moment. Looking down at them, Chaim knew he had a lot of explaining to do, to correct what he had taught them by his actions over the course of their life.
“We have much to do,” he said in a firm voice to the group. “This baby and his parents need food and fresh straw for their donkey. And we need to help them find lodging, for we cannot have this baby living in a stable for very long.”
Ilan looked his son-in-law up and down, a small smile creeping across his lips. “I sense a change in you my son. Is this true?”
Chaim thought for a moment, looking at the family in the manger and then back to his own.
“No, not a change. An understanding,” he said, breathing in the fresh morning air. “Let us go. They day is young, we have an inn to run and a Savior to care for.”