For Unto Us…
by Peg Luksik
There are more Christmas stories on television this year than ever – and not one of them even mentions the fact that Christmas happened because a Child was born. So I decided to write a Christmas story that was actually about Christmas. I hope you enjoy it.
For Unto Us…
The young husband watched his wife with worried eyes. When she caught him looking at her, she always smiled, but he could see the lines of discomfort and exhaustion etched on her face, and his concern continued to grow.
It had been an incredibly difficult journey. Because of her condition, they had needed to make frequent stops and to travel slowly. Now it was nearly dark, and they were among the last to enter the tiny town of Bethlehem. He knew it was going to be nearly impossible to find suitable lodging for them, especially with limited means.
He thought that they might do better if they tried one of the private homes that were taking in boarders. It would be more quiet and perhaps a bit less expensive.
So he walked up to the first door with a sign on it, and knocked. The owner answered quickly, interrupted his question to tell him that they were full and quickly shut the door. He turned around sadly, and caught the briefest glimpse of disappointment in her eyes. It was gone in an instant, replaced with an encouraging smile, but it had been there.
They continued down the street, and when they came to the second door, he straightened his shoulders and knocked. It was like an encore performance. This time, before he turned around to her, he carefully arranged his face to hide his growing anxiety. When he looked at her, he saw that she had done the same thing for him.
He tried every house he could find, with no luck. It became harder to keep knocking in the face of such continuing failure, but he didn’t give up. And every time he looked at her, expecting and dreading to see that look of disappointment again, he found only a consistently caring and supporting smile.
Finally, they came to the town’s inn. They could hear the noise from its courtyard a block away. They couldn’t afford a private room, even if one was available, and he hated the thought of having her spend the night in that raucous courtyard, surrounded by Roman soldiers and caravan workers.
The innkeeper responded to his knock and peered past him to see her sitting on the mule’s back. Her condition was obvious. The innkeeper wanted nothing to do with such a possibility in the courtyard of his establishment. He was polite, but blunt.
“There is no room,” he said.
The husband turned away, not having any idea of what he should do next. He was supposed to be taking care of her, and at this moment he didn’t know how.
Then a quiet voice at his elbow said, “I know a place. Follow me.”
He turned to see a small woman with intense eyes. She didn’t wait for a response, but turned and started walking up the road leading behind the inn toward the outskirts of the town. The husband took the halter of the mule, and followed.
They came to a small stable. It wasn’t much, but it was out of the night wind. The straw was clean, and the place was well kept. The woman helped him get his wife into a soft bed of straw, and water the mule.
When it became obvious that the baby was coming, the woman disappeared. He thought it would have been nice for his wife if she had stayed to help, but was grateful for what she had done. The baby came quickly, and he found an empty manger to lay the Child in. He was just putting fresh straw into it, when the woman returned with a swaddling blanket.
She handed it to his wife, saying, “I made this for my own child, but it was never used. I would be honored to give it to you.”
His wife accepted the gift with a gentle smile and a hug, and the women wrapped the Baby who would save the world in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger. Just as they got Him settled, He opened His eyes and smiled.
And the awful emptiness in the woman’s heart was filled. She wiped away sudden tears, and gave the Baby and His mother a kiss. Then the innkeeper’s wife returned to her noisy inn.