Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Visit from the Christ Child

T'was the night we call Christmas.
And an innkeeper's mirth
Was spoiled by a woman
About to give birth.

His inn wasn't much:
A few rooms, a courtyard.
The town was quite small.
Making money was hard.

But the Roman tax census
Had filled every room.
His coffers were swollen
(Like the poor woman's womb.)

He should have been happy,
His mood quite ecstatic.
Instead her condition
Had turned things dramatic.

Her husband looked tired,
The woman looked beat;
The last thing he wanted
Was to show them the street.

But his inn overflowed;
Every nook and each cranny
Was stuffed with some guy,
Or his kids or his granny.

"I've got no more room!"
But as soon as he'd spoken,
The girl said, "Well, that's tough!
My water has broken."

"I'm about to deliver.
The pain's coming faster.
If I don't lie down,
It will be a disaster!"

He couldn't say "No,"
But he couldn't say "Yes."
So the innkeeper thought
"Here's another fine mess."

It had been a long day.
The guests needed tending.
Their demands were insane.
Their requests were unending.

His family and staff
Tried to meet every need,
Be it water, or firewood,
Or some animal's feed.

The thought of the beasts
Made him think: was he able
To put up the couple
For one night in the stable?

He could lay some fresh straw.
He could make things look neat.
It was dryer and warmer
Than to sleep in the street.

It wasn't ideal,
But it wasn't that bad.
And let's face it--it was
All of the space that he had.

Giving birth in a stable
Was hard to propose.
Might not the miffed husband
Punch him right in the nose?

He hemmed and he hawed;
The suggestion was made.
They weren't wild about it;
But they weren't too dismayed.

A hole in the hillside
Was all he could proffer.
It's not like they'd get
A more elegant offer.

They knew all the facts
And they couldn't complain.
What decided them, though,
Was the next labor pain.

So a servant was sent
To clean out the stall
And move in the family,
Donkey and all.

Meanwhile, another
Was sent into town
To find a midwife
And to bring her around.

When he showed them the cave,
They weren't too appalled;
And so in a thrice,
He had them installed.

The midwife arrived
With all of her tools.
She was not one who suffered
Those folks she called fools.

As for journeying far
With a wife great with child…
Well, to call this man stupid
Was, to her, way too mild.

The scorn for her clients
That she tried to maintain
Went away when she saw
The poor girl in such pain.

That the husband was helpful,
She couldn't begrudge him.
By the end of the thing,
It was clear she'd misjudged him.

The innkeeper, too,
(she'd delivered his daughter)
Was fast with fresh straw
And lots of hot water.

When they heard the babe's cry,
And saw the man's grin,
A wave of applause
Swept around the whole inn.

The women all came
To say "ooo" and to coo
And to tell the new mother
What from now she must do.

The men sought the husband
And offered him wine.
"Sit down by our fire!
Join us as we dine!"

They made bawdy jokes
And called him a hero,
Though he said that his part
In the matter was zero.

The midwife, seeing both
Babe and mom out of danger,
For lack of a good place,
Put the kid in a manger.

The excitement now over,
The guests settled down…
Till a whole flock of shepherds
Invaded the town!

They babbled about angels
Singing songs of God's favor,
And a baby named Jesus
Who was born to be savior.

"Where is the Messiah?
Point us straight to his throne.
We've come here to offer him
All that we own!"

Chagrined, the innkeeper
Softly said with a cough,
"There's the child, lying there
In that old feeding trough."

Unfazed the poor shepherds
Approached the small stable
And each brought a gift
Of whatever he was able.

The innkeep, though clearly
Worn out from his labors,
Was touched by the shepherds,
Most of whom were his neighbors.

If they said they saw angels,
If this child's the Anointed,
Could this place of his birth
By God's will be appointed?

He looked at the stall
And the new family.
Was there much more to this
Than his tired eyes could see?

Then a line from the Torah
Came into his mind
That the image of God
Could be seen in mankind

He looked at the figure
Of the babe in the straw
For a hint of whatever
Put the shepherds in awe.

But the infant just then
Seemed to seek out his face
And the innkeeper felt
Indescribable grace.

In the depths of those eyes
He thought he could see,
A soul that was older,
And wiser than he.

He saw there great love;
Joy and humor to spare;
Justice reigned in his heart;
Mercy also ruled there.

While lost in those eyes,
All his cares he felt cease.
What later he remembered
Was a sense of deep peace.

The two souls communed.
Not a word, though, was spoken.
One pair of eyes blinked,
And the spell then was broken.

It hit him--the beasts' smell,
The gifts shepherds gave.
He deserves more, he thought,
As he walked from the cave.

David's son lay in hay.
And what bothered him most
Was the world now would say
He was a bad host.

He strode to his room
Where his brood fled to rest.
A plan came to mind
Though he knew they'd protest.

On awakening, they grumbled.
Honor though was at stake.
Lest they fail as good hosts,
There was one choice to make.

So with bows and sweet words,
And intent to save faces,
The couple was approached
By the hosts to trade places.

Thrice they offered their room,
Twice the couple declined,
Thus with etiquette observed,
Swapping places, they reclined.

Gazing out on what was
His oddest night thus far,
The innkeep's last sight
Was a very bright star.


Did the inn survive long
After that night of glory?
Did the innkeeper hear
The rest of the story?

Did he know 5 miles north
From his dear Bethlehem
Of events that transpired
All around Jerusalem?

Did he know that the lad
Who was laid in a manger
Was three decades later
In bodily danger?

In the Shepherd King's city
He the shepherds acclaimed
Was accused and abused,
By false shepherds defamed?

Did he know that poor Mary
Grieved the fruit of her womb,
Who was nailed to a cross
And then laid in a tomb?

Did he hear that the one
Who was born in a cave
Was reborn in another:
His very own grave?

That the one whose first cry
Rose from straw like some calf
Was the same who first had
On grim Death the last laugh?

Did the aged innkeeper
Who maintained that poor mews
Ever hear the tale's coda,
That which made it good news?

Did he echo the song
Of the heavenly host
When he learned he was God's
First one-star earthly host?

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