“As he told the story of that wondrous night to Luke, Joshua carefully removed himself from the narrative. It was to be between him and God alone.”
JOSHUA was excited with his new job at the inn. It sure beats having to herd sheep this time of the year when the cold nights chilled his bones on the hillside pasture where he tended his family’s small herd of sheep and cattle. The job fell to his younger brother this time.
Jacob, the owner of the inn was his father’s friend who had asked if Joshua could help him mind the inn for a little while as he and his wife will be going on a long journey. Jacob liked and trusted Joshua like the son he never had. The young man was a good worker and a natural who quickly picked up the ropes of the business.
Not long after, Jacob and his wife left for their journey to the town north of the country where they were born many miles away to comply with the Roman emperor Augustus’ decree that everyone be counted for the census. Few, if any, in Israel dared disobey the mighty Roman Empire.
The inn was busy. People for miles around were on the move going back to their own hometowns. The brisk business brought by overnight travellers in their otherwise sleepy town tired him out. Yet, he felt pretty proud of himself of the work he was doing.
Today, just before sundown, he had filled the 12 modestly furnished rooms with tired and hungry travellers. He thought of meeting up with his shepherd friends in the pasture once he had turned over the inn’s affairs to the night attendant. He had heard his shepherd friends on night watch talk about an unusually bright star that has been moving in the heavens for many nights now. They said it was a spectacle to behold and he wanted to see it for himself.
The rumor buzzing around town was that the soothsayers in King Herod’s palace studying the unusual heavenly display were cowering in fear, loathe to tell the king the meaning of the unusual star. Eventually, they had to tell the king for nothing escapes him. Herod did not suffer fools gladly.
The prophecy will come to pass. The king to rule all kings was to be born very soon within the kingdom. It was no wonder King Herod was in a vicious mood. Joshua thought the ruthless king would remove all threats to his kingship by all means fair or foul. It was bad enough he had to bow to the superior might of the Roman conquerors who had allowed him to be king within his territory.
Just as Joshua was about to lock up for the night, a couple came in. The man, visibly tired and leaning on his staff with one hand, was supporting the woman who was heavy with child with his other hand. The woman looked to be in some pain. Still, Joshua noted the stately calm, grace and beauty about her. There was this mysterious glow. The man asked Joshua for a room and told him his wife was about to give birth. Alas, the last room has been let and Joshua told him so.
Joshua glanced at the woman and his heart was filled with pity. He thought quickly of his own home for them to stay for the night but it was some distance away. He had to think and act quickly. It looks like the woman was about to give birth at any moment. Joshua had seen to his own mother at childbirth. He had helped his own father deliver some of his brothers himself.
“Maybe, I have something for you. It’s not much but it would get you through this cold night at least,” he told the couple. “Come with me.”
Joshua gathered some blankets and sheets quickly. He gave instructions to his attendant to heat water. He then gathered food and other provisions. He moved in haste leading the couple to an empty stable a few yards at the back of the inn.
Earlier in the day before the sun was up, he took to clearing the stable himself. He didn’t know why he did it. But now he was glad he did so. He thought the squalid stable with its walls and roof can shield this poor couple from the cold night as the woman delivers her child.
Joshua gave the man the blankets and clean sheets, the warm water and some extra oil for the lamp to burn through the night. He set a makeshift table for the bread, fish and wine and lit the lamp in one corner.
He moved quickly as he helped the man make his wife comfortable. He could see the woman’s face etched in pain for the birth pangs seem to be stronger now. Beads of sweat lined the woman’s brow. He knew he wasn’t going to be able to meet up with his friends tonight. Somehow he knew his place was right here where he was needed for the long night ahead.
Just before he went back to the inn to fetch a few more things, he said to them, “I’m Joshua. Let me know if you need anything else.” The man replied, “I’m Joseph and this is Mary. Thank you. You have done more than you can possibly know. The Lord’s light burns bright in you.” Mary looked up at Joshua and smiled through her pain. For as long as he lived, Joshua will never forget that smile.
Mary’s child was born that night. Joshua could not remember a night more filled with wonder, mystery and myriad points of light.
It was a night like no other. Joshua’s entire being was engulfed with the mystery happening before his very eyes. He remembered Mary wrapping her child gently in swaddling clothes and placing the child in a manger. The child was bathed in light. The whole stable was filled with warmth. Soft, sweet music seem to emanate from a choir of angels above the stable and a sweet heavenly fragrance wafted through the air.
Joshua’s shepherd friends came to visit the child. How could they have known? His friends told him that an angel told them about the good news. They were led to the stable where they found the child.
Filled with awe, they knelt before the child who was to be king. Later on that night, three men garbed in royal splendor and bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh travelling from afar, came to pay the child homage. They had been following the bright star hovering about the heavens for many nights leading them to that dusty town called Bethlehem.
Many years later in his old age, the memory of that night still stayed with Joshua. He had remained the innkeeper. He had struck a friendship with a man called Luke, a physician who was a regular guest at the inn. He observed that the thoughtful, quiet Luke was always writing in rolls of papyrus in his room.
Not wanting to keep the wonders of that night to be forgotten when he passed, Joshua told the story to Luke. As he told the story of that wondrous night, Joshua carefully removed himself from the narrative. It was to be between him and God alone.
Joshua’s life was never the same again. The light of that bright night burned in his soul forever. He could not have known at the time he was witness to the unfolding of the greatest mystery on earth.
May the true Spirit of Christmas live in our hearts all year round!
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ONE AND ALL!
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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.
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Nota Bene: Monette Adeva Maglaya is SVP of Asian Journal Publications, Inc. To send comments, e-mail [email protected]