Today is the last Sunday of Advent. Christmas Day is on Saturday… which is crazy to think about. Yet another year has flown by, and here we are once again getting to celebrate the birth of our Savior. Christmas means a little more to me each time it comes around. This year, God’s been showing me a little more of what Emmanuel means—God with us. God, the God, the Creator of the universe, willingly took on flesh and became a man, deliberately choosing to share in our sorrows and take them as His own. He is with us always, in the good times and the bad. He is no stranger to hardship, even from the moment of His birth.
Today’s candle is the candle of peace. While it technically refers to the message the angels brought of peace on earth, I’ve chosen to take a look at a more personal peace. What must it have been like for Mary and Joseph to have been turned away from comfort and told to sleep with the animals? Several years ago, I stumbled across an article discussing the circumstances of Jesus’ birth, and the author made a convincing argument for the “inn” in Luke 2 actually being a “guest room” of a house. This means that Mary and Joseph were potentially turned away from his own family’s house. The idea was too fascinating to not write about, so this is the setting I’ve chosen for today’s short story.
Rachel poked her head around the corner, straining to hear the words drifting in from the courtyard. Abba’s tone was hard as he replied to whomever was standing at the door. A strong wind was blowing, though, keeping her from catching all his words. Only a few phrases made their way to her ears: “can’t let you in… no room… disgrace.”
Rachel frowned and took a step closer. Who can he possibly be talking to? He surely wouldn’t be speaking to a stranger in such a harsh way. But neither would he turn away a friend who was apparently seeking lodging for the night. It was true that their little guest room was filled with the myriad of relatives who had come to Betlechem for the census, but surely a place could be found for one or two more. She moved forward a few more paces. I’ll give them my place if I have to. Abba’s being unreasonable.
“Please, Abba,” another voice said, and Rachel froze. Is that… Yosef? She hurried toward the doorway, ducking into a dark corner before again peeking out.
Her older brother, Yosef, stood just outside the house, his clothes covered in dust and his face drawn with exhaustion. His eyes were turned towards their father, but Rachel could see the hopelessness in them even as he raised his hands in supplication.
“Please,” Yosef said again, “I know what this looks like, but you must believe me. Neither of us have sinned. We just need a place to stay for tonight. Miryam will give birth soon—perhaps even tonight. Please, just give us anything.”
Rachel’s eyes grew wide as she listened. Miryam… Yosef’s betrothed. What does he mean, she is about to give birth? Her stomach flipped sickeningly, and she swallowed hard. Yosef, what have you done? What has she done? It was no wonder Abba wouldn’t let them in. How could he allow such a horrible sin to taint the walls of his house? Miryam could be stoned for this. Yosef might even be disgraced. How would this reflect on the rest of the family? Rachel turned to go, a lump rising in her throat.
Then Abba sighed, a long, weary sound. Rachel paused and looked back as her father’s shoulders slumped. “I can’t let you in,” he repeated. “But you can stay with the animals. It’s… it’s all I can do.”
“Yes.” Relief coursed through Yosef’s voice. “Yes, that will be perfect. Thank you, Abba.”
Rachel turned around fully, her mouth falling open. The animals? Abba’s really going to send them there? But it smells, and it’s not clean, and—
Yosef walked away from the door, and as he did, Rachel caught sight of Miryam. She had been standing behind him, and as she too began to walk away, her eyes met Rachel’s for a brief moment. She looked even worse than Yosef, her round, somewhat plain face pinched with weariness and a hint of pain. But she managed a smile for Rachel before she moved out of sight.
Rachel slipped back into her corner as Abba closed the door, sighing again. She sank onto the floor and leaned her head against the wall. Miryam wasn’t the least upset about having to sleep with the animals. She looked… content. Rachel slowly shook her head. If she gives birth tonight, she’ll have nowhere to lay the baby. Well, I suppose there’s the feeding trough. She shuddered at that as she rose to her feet. May Adonai be Yahweh Shalom for them tonight. Heaven knows they’ll need it.