Away in a Manger

Away in a Manger

Merry Christmas! Instead of the normal blog post, I wrote a Christmas story for your reading pleasure. Biblical scholars believe that, at the time of Jesus’ birth, caves or the lower level of a house often served as stables. I wrote this story from the innkeeper’s perspective of Luke 2. I hope you enjoy it! Many blessings on you and your family this season as we celebrate Jesus’ birth!

Plates clinked as Matthias set another platter of food before his guests. Travelers crammed his tiny inn on their way to the family homestead for the census. The aroma of hot food battled the stench of body odor in the open room they used for meals. Matthias could hardly breathe. When fresh air wafted through the raucous room, he glanced toward the door. The poor man looked as tired as Matthias felt. Matthias hustled over and shushed him before he could speak. “I’m sorry, sir. I’m full. You might try closer to Jerusalem.” Matthias turned back to his guests, but a viselike grip held his arm captive. 

“My wife.”

“Sir, I have no room. Every inch of floor has been taken.”

The grip on his arm tightened. “But she is with child.”

Matthias peered past the man. A young girl waited in the shadows. Her hands rested on her growing belly. She looked to be the age of his daughter Miriam. Matthias stepped out, silencing the clatter of the dining room as he closed the door. He sighed. “I can offer you my stable.”

The man’s shoulders drooped with fatigue. “Thank you, sir.” 

“One moment.” Matthias stuck his head inside, yelled to his wife, and grabbed a lantern. “This way.”

The man gently guided his wife. They wove through an obstacle course of carts, horses, and a dozing donkey, past the well, toward a cave behind the inn. 

Matthias smiled at the pair. “It’s not much, but it’s dry—and quiet.”

Sleepy heads bobbed as the stable animals surveyed their new roommates. Matthias directed the man to a pile of fresh hay. “I’ll send Miriam with some food.”

“Thank you, but we brought our own provisions.”

Matthias noted the threadbare tunic. “Nonsense. Your young lady needs to keep up her strength for the little one.”

True to his word, Matthias sent Miriam to the stable, warm loaves in hand as well as salty olives, roasted mutton, and cheese. Minutes later, Miriam burst through the door with a bang. The whispered conversation with her mother took mere seconds. Mama took charge faster than a cursed Roman centurion. She fired commands at anyone within hearing, gathered a bundle of odds and ends, and flew out the door. 

Matthias shook his head. He didn’t want to know. A servant girl manned the kitchen. Matthias attended his guests until the last one sank onto his pallet for sleep. 

Finally, some quiet. 

Matthias stretched, weary muscles ready to collapse on his own pallet, but his wife’s spot remained empty. I should check on her. Grabbing the nearest lamp, he fumbled with the door then tiptoed into the darkness. Light bobbed toward him. 

“It’s a boy! Healthy and strong!” Mama’s face beamed. 

Miriam nodded, all smiles. 

“What? A baby? In my stable?” Matthias stammered in surprise. 

Mama kissed her husband’s cheek. “I’m so glad you put them there.”

Miriam hugged her father. “Good thinking, Abba.”

Matthias shrugged. What else could he do? The stable was all he had. He pulled his wife and daughter close. Stars twinkled as they turned toward the inn. Matthias jumped, nearly running into the group of men who had suddenly appeared behind him. “Gentlemen, I’m so sorry, but my inn is full.”

A rough voice cut through the darkness. “Matthias, you idiot, it’s me, Jacob.” 

Matthias raised his lamp. The light cast an eerie glow on their pale faces. Mama placed a hand on Matthias’s arm. “Is something wrong with the flock, Jacob? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

The shepherds glanced at one another. “The flock is fine. We’re looking for something . . . a baby.”

“A baby?” Matthias’s head felt thick. He was too tired to think.

“A baby.” The shepherd coughed. “In a manger.”

Miriam giggled and pointed to the stable. The shepherds shuffled into the darkness. 

Mama looked at Matthias. He shook his head. “Shepherds. They’re an odd bunch.” He wrapped his arms around his wife and daughter. Together, they headed to bed as lowly shepherds watched the young couple tuck their newborn son away in a manger.