You see, it all started on a cold, dark night. My little hotel-restaurant was packed with out-of-town customers. The mood of the crowd at first was dark, with talk of rebellion. After all, no one likes being forced to travel just for a census! a head count. Yet time, a few drinks and the opportunity to renew friendships lifted traveler's spirits and the atmosphere soon became more festive.
Business was good — almost too good. All my rooms were filled, so people were forced to sleep in the streets. With so many people eating, our supplies of food and drink were critically low.
Later that night, two travelers approached my gate: a young man and his obviously pregnant wife astride a donkey. They both looked exhausted. The young man was polite enough. "Please sir, we have come a long way and need a room. Can you please help us?"
I turned away many others without a thought, but the look of panic in the man's eyes and the young girl's condition made me pause. "There must be somewhere I can put them." But sadly, there was not and I was forced to tell them so. "I'm sorry. There is no room in the inn."
But something about the young woman's face made me pause! She looked so calm and serene. "Wait a minute!" I blurted out. "There's a stable around back with an empty stall. I can add a little fresh straw and you will at least have shelter." Why was I so concerned about the welfare of this young couple? After preparing their area, I left without even asking them for money.
"And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the village inn" (Luke 2:6-7).
The frantic banging on the front door began just as I was finally falling asleep. One of the shepherds in a nearby field said, "You must come at once to see the child. She has sent for you."
"It's just a baby." I shouted. "I've seen babies before." But I was so wrong. Only the shepherds and a few animals surrounded Mary and Joseph. "Where did the shepherds come from?" I wondered. Then I noticed the child. He wasn't crying. He was smiling and looking directly at me. His eyes seemed to penetrate right through to my very soul. How could this baby affect me so?
Something happened that night. Don't get me wrong, I'm still a businessman, not a preacher, but seeing that child changed me, forever. Over the last few weeks I've done a lot of thinking and praying about where my life is going. With God's help, this is what I will do:
- Become more generous in my giving and look for opportunities to help others.
- Treat my employees with more respect and pay what they earn, not what I can get by with.
- Maintain a stricter accounting of my ledger books and with my customer bills.
- Spend more time at home with my wife and children.
- Go back to church and look for ways that I can become involved in their ministry.
- Spend more time in prayer for my family, for business, for others and for those in ministry.
What about you? How will seeing the Christ-child affect you this year? Peter said: "As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life. He has called us to receive his own glory and goodness!" (2 Peter 1:3).
Seeing the Christ-child in a manger surrounded by animals and shepherds changed this innkeeper forever. How will seeing Christ change you? I pray that in 2007 you will see the Christ-child and be transformed! May God richly bless your journey of faith. Merry Christmas!