He was an old guy when I met him. His wife had died several years earlier, and their only surviving child had gone to Rome, so he was alone. Although not reduced to begging, it was obvious that financially he hovered just above poverty. The inn had long ago seen better days. Besides, after the death of the King, few people found it necessary to travel to this distant village anymore.
But he was always happy, ecstatic even! I couldn’t understand it, because I didn’t see anything in his life which should result in such joy. So one day I asked him, how was it he could always be so happy?
He said, “Young man, that’s an interesting question. I wasn’t always happy, you see. I once was an ambitious, aggressive man, competing with my neighbors over who got the most bags of silver. I had big plans for this inn, ones that my constant retelling nearly drove my poor wife to madness. But it all started to change that one night, many years ago.”
“The King had decreed that a census of the land was to be taken, so folks from all over the realm were returning to the villages where they were born. It was a boom time for us innkeepers, and I had my choice of who I wanted to let stay at the inn, and who I would turn away. It seemed that no matter how high my greed reached, there would be a traveler arriving soon with the means to fill it.”
“And so it was that when a poor carpenter and his young pregnant wife arrived, (they were so poor they had walked for most of their journey!), and asked me for a room, I told him I had no occupancy, for I could see at a glance that other customers could easily pay much more than this disheveled fellow. With a sigh he turned to go, and then … it started. While she said not a word of complaint, I saw one large teardrop fall from the young wife’s eyes, and linger on her check, where it sparkled like a diamond, or a star even.”
“I told the husband to wait, that while I did not have a room for him, for a modest fee, (for I was sure this pair couldn’t afford much more), they could stay with the animals in the barn. Imagine my surprise when, instead of outrage or dismay, he thanked me profusely, and even offered to perform any maintenance on the barn that was needed.”
“I did not realize it, but apparently they had been repeatedly turned away, rejected from every other inn they had sought longing at. How frustrating that must have been, after such a long, tiring journey!”
“So they spent the night with my animals in the stable, for in those days I was more prosperous than I am now. You know the story: the wife gave birth, both mother and baby survived, and during her convalescence they were visited by all types of people, rich and poor, old and young, wise and stupid.”
“At the end of their stay they kept their word and paid me, and one morning they were gone. The barn had never been so clean as after they left, and every animal, even a sickly lamb that I expected to lose, was healthier than any I had ever seen. It was puzzling, a miracle even. But rather than take in the wonder, I simply calculated how much profit I would reap from this beneficial turn of events.”
“The years went by, and I grew richer and richer. I was seemingly blessed, for every business venture I entered into succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. Then one day a traveler, a pilgrim, stopped by the inn, and asked if he could spend the night in the manger.”
“I asked him why on earth would he want to do such a thing, and he told me the story of how a King, the Son of God, had been born here, in this very manger. He told me of how this man had healed the sick, raised the dead even, and how, if we would follow him, we would enjoy true, incorruptible riches of the spirit, greater than all the gold in the world!”
“And I shuddered as he told me how, when the Child King was born, visitors from near and far came here to praise and worship him, guided to the manger by a star, just like the teardrop star that had appeared on his mother’s cheek those many years ago.”
“I told the pilgrim he could spend the night, and when he offered to pay me, refused to take his money. I had never felt like this before, but now … I don’t know, I didn’t feel right charging him a cent.”
“I was quiet all during dinner, so quiet that my wife asked me what was wrong. I just shook my head. I felt strange, but I couldn’t articulate why just yet.”
Originally posted by us on FullofKnowledge.