December 23, 2011

Innkeeper tells of the miraculous birth of Christ

By John F. Fink

BETHLEHEM, Judea—I just have to tell someone about the great events that I witnessed yesterday.

First, let me introduce myself. My name is David bar Jacob. I was named after our illustrious ancestor, King David, who lived here in Bethlehem until he entered the service of King Saul.

Of course, as you know, David went on to become our greatest king. He lived in Hebron and then in Jerusalem, but he was born here.

I’m the innkeeper here in Bethlehem. Unfortunately, that’s not a very lucrative job because the little town of Bethlehem doesn’t get many visitors these days. It has fallen on hard times. People usually bypass Bethlehem and go directly to Jerusalem since it’s so close.

However, that hasn’t been true the past few weeks. Emperor Caesar Augustus decided that he wanted to take up a census and decreed that everyone had to enroll in the city of his ancestors.

I’m not sure why that was necessary, but I shouldn’t complain because it has meant more business for me. The few rooms in my inn sell out quickly every day.

That’s the way it was yesterday evening when a very nice couple arrived at my inn. Their names were Joseph and Mary. They were in town to register because Joseph is descended from the family of King David.

When they arrived, Mary was obviously near the end of her pregnancy. They wanted a room, but all my rooms were taken.

I couldn’t just turn them away though. I did the only thing that I could—something that I had done a couple of times in the past. I took them to the little cave behind the inn where I keep my animals. I made them as comfortable as I could then returned to the inn.

It wasn’t an hour later that Joseph came running back to me.

“I need a midwife,” he said.

My wife, Salome, knew whom to get so she did, and we all hurried back to the cave. Of course, my wife and I didn’t go in, but the midwife did.

Soon I heard the cry of a baby. Then I heard the midwife exclaim, “How great is this day to me that I have seen this new sight.”

Coming out of the cave, the midwife said to my wife, “Salome, Salome, I have a new sight to tell you; a virgin has brought forth, a thing which her nature does not allow.”#

Salome and I went into the cave and there was Mary with her baby. She had already wrapped him in some swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger.

Salome did what she could to make them comfortable then we returned to our inn.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. Salome and I were getting ready for bed while talking about what we’d just seen when we heard a great commotion.

I checked to see what was going on, and there was a group of shepherds headed for the cave.

Well, I have to tell you that shepherds are not my favorite people. They are usually dirty and they manage to pick up an odor from being with all their sheep. They’re pretty much at the bottom of our social system. But they usually stay in the fields. It’s unusual for them to come around the inn.

I asked one of them what was going on. That’s when he told me an amazing story. He said that the shepherds had been keeping watch over their sheep in the fields when suddenly an angel appeared to them with a great light shining around him.

“Naturally, we were scared to death,” the shepherd said. “But the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.’ Then he told us where we would find him.”

But that wasn’t all. The shepherds told me that a whole multitude of angels appeared, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

I believe in angels, but this was the first time I ever talked to someone who had seen one. That is, until this morning when I was able to have a longer conversation with Joseph while Mary was nursing her baby.

He told me that an angel had appeared to Mary nine months ago to tell her about God’s plan for her to bear this baby. Not only that, but Joseph also had experienced a visit from an angel in a dream.

At the time, Joseph had discovered that Mary was pregnant and he knew that he wasn’t the father. He had decided to divorce her quietly rather than accuse her of adultery. That’s when the angel appeared in Joseph’s dream and told him that it was through the Holy Spirit that the child was conceived.

When Joseph told me that, I thought that explained what the midwife had discovered, that Mary had given birth while remaining a virgin.

Well, that’s my story. I believe that the long-awaited Messiah was born last night in the cave behind my inn.

Of course, I knew that it would happen in Bethlehem because one of our prophets said about our city, “You, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

(This quotation and the story of the midwife are included in The Protevangelium of James, an apocryphal book [#19]. John F. Fink is editor emeritus of The Criterion.)

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!