Bartolo, also known as Barty the Innkeeper, was having a bad day. His cook had just called in sick, the roof was leaking again, and the guests in the room overlooking the stables were complaining about the smell.
But these were not all of his problems.
The governor had just declared a census after the last election and everyone was flooding back into their home towns. Of course, no one wanted to put up with their obnoxious relatives over the holidays, so they stuck them in old Barty’s inn.
“What do they expect me to do?” yelled Barty at no one in particular. “While I don’t mind the business, I have people sleeping in the halls and on tables in the pub.
“And they are so crabby that I have to turn off the CNN feed so they can’t watch election news.”
The recent election had also thrown everyone into a snit. The new governor-elect, Trumpius Maximus, was not a favorite of anyone with his late night scrolls regarding proper bleaching of togas and criticisms of chariot manufacturers.
Add to that recent news the Parthian Empire to the east had stolen confidential scrolls from the Hilarious Clintonia Liarous campaign (who opposed Trumpius) and released them in an attempt to influence the election.
Of course, the Parthians were wrong to do this, but the information was already generally known about Clintonia and had little impact. The brutal truth of the matter is that most people did not like Clintonia because she was, simply, unlikable.
None of this improved Barty’s disposition. Running from the kitchen to the front desk to the pub and back again, he had little time to deal with the young couple that had just wandered through his front door.
Dirty and tired from the long journey, Mary and Joseph were looking forward to a nice bed and warm meal. That was not to be. Forces were at work that would change their lives forever.
“What? You want a room? Hah! You should have made a reservation on Expedia before you came! We are booked. I’ve got the Dirty Campaigners Convention booked in the Smith and Cafario rooms, the Big Crybabies Club in the Democratus room, and the Felons Fraternity in the Pardon room.
“The only thing I have open is the barn.”
It was at that moment that Mary felt the first contraction. She looked at Joseph and said meekly, “Get me someplace to lie down, now!”
Or was that my wife’s labor process? I can’t remember.
Barty gruffly replied, “You can bed down in the stable tonight. It’s the best I’ve got. But, beggars can’t be choosers, eh?”
Joseph calmly agreed and led his wife outside to the barn.
Barty then noticed the rest of the crowd. “Hey, what are all you shepherds doing in here? Shouldn’t you be out watching your sheep? You smell almost as bad as the Measure M bond for a parking garage for out-of-district students!”
He then went back to his frenetic hospitality chores – not understanding his role in history.
Mary and Joseph went out to the barn and several hours later were parents. The child, a strapping young lad, had nowhere to rest so Joseph grabbed an animal feeding trough, cleaned it out as best he could, and placed the wrapped child in it.
Quite a humble start for this kid. How many of us can say we were born in a barn and our first crib was a nasty, dirty feeding trough?
Most would look upon this scene and slowly shake their heads, convinced that the child would live an inconsequential life and die in obscurity.
That was not to be. For this child was different. He would grow to become the most famous and influential person in history.
He would build up and tear down empires while never lifting a sword. He would change hearts and minds with just simple words. He would teach us a new way to live that enabled us to rise above our base and useless selves to be much more.
Some of us will say he is the king of kings and lord of lords. God incarnate who walked the earth. Some of us will spit upon him, call him names, and deride his teachings.
Like him or not, none can argue that this baby, Jesus of Nazareth, changed the world. Maybe it’s easy for us to be like old Barty, too busy with the world and wrapped up in buying gifts, cooking, taking care of kids, politics, and work.
Let’s take a momentary break and look at the star in the east. It will do us good.
Merry Christmas to all.