December 24, 2013: Christmas Eve


TEXT: Luke 2: 4-7: “So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Dearly Beloved By the Infant Christ-Child:

My name if Eliezer ben Judah, the owner of the “Wheat Sheaf Inn” in Bethlehem, and O My goodness! Do I have a story to tell all of you!

It’s been over 2000 years since it happened, but the memory is clear as crystal to me. It was the time of the Roman census under Emperor Augustus. The Romans always wanted more money from us by means of taxes. To insure that their coffers were full, they demanded an official census should take place so that they could tax each and every soul living in Judea! So everyone had to journey back to their roots, their ancestral home town. Bethlehem, known for its wheat fields, hence the name of my inn, gathered the ancient clan of Jesse and King David. It was a really great time for all of us innkeepers. We made money hand-over-fist from the travelers. I can’t tell you how many folks I turned away.

Anyway, late one afternoon as the winter sun was setting, a rag-tag couple came in looking for a room. His name was Joseph from Nazareth, and his new wife was named Mary. She was pregnant and big as a house! I felt bad telling them: “Sorry, we’re full up!” But then, I remembered the cattle shed, really a small cave-like enclave we used for animals behind the inn. Maybe with enough straw and the animals for heat (they give off a lot, you know) it would work? Any, I’d make a few shekels more….They accepted. Actually, they had no other option. Everyone’s house and the rest of the inns were full-up. They knew this, too. So, they settled themselves among the animals and awaited the dawn.


Around 10 o’clock, during the first “little sleep” of the night, as we called it, my helper roused me from my bed. I was grumpy. He told me that the pregnant woman was in labor! O goodie! I’d have to fetch the mid-wife and then I’d be indebted to her. Well, from then on I got hourly reports on how it was going. Surprisingly, her labor was very short and before mid-night she had a beautiful baby boy! Everyone was happy. The family was glad, but exhausted. Ah, now I could go back to sleep! But then the noise began. Shepherds from the surrounding fields began to stream into our inn and yard. They were looking for “The Messiah! The new-born King!” Say what? We have only one newborn here and his parents are almost shekel-less. They told an amazing story of angels appearing to them, announcing the birth of God’s Son, and singing praises to His name! More came with the same story. They all grouped around that little cattle-cave and worshiped this new baby! Some of the other guests stirred and got involved, too. What did it all mean?


Now, we were all good, pious, God-fearing Jews. We all knew our Old Testaments. We all knew of the long-promised Messiah, the Son of God, Who would come to save His people. We all knew that He was going to be born from the house and lineage of David. He would be God’s love given in human form to and for forlorn people like me, Eliezer. Could this little baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger actually be that Savior of the world? We all hoped, but it was a bit hard to swallow.
After a while the shepherds began to leave. Things quieted down. Everyone got back to sleep. The next day it was the talk of the town! A widow woman down the street felt so bad for them that she gave them a room in her home in which to stay. So, they moved and I got back to business.
Eventually, Mary and Joseph found a semi-permanent place to stay with some long-lost relatives. Again, things quieted down and after a few months the horse races in Jerusalem dominated the conversations around the local wine bars. Joseph found work, the baby boy grew a bit, and Mary got stronger. She was such a young thing, you know.
About a year later, I heard and saw another ruckus associated with this couple. A camel caravan with wealthy astronomers from Persia came into town looking for them. They said they had seen a spectacular star which had announced to them the birth of the Messiah and now were led to Bethlehem as all the prophesies had foretold. Well! We all knew where to direct them.—Mary and Joseph resided just down the road a bit. They went there and worshipped the baby! It was all so strange. Again, everyone talked and we wondered: Could what those shepherds have said actually be true? Was this the Messiah?
Then they left rather abruptly. The very next night so did Mary and Joseph. No one knew where they went. A few days later hell descended upon us. King Herod sent soldiers into our town to murder all the little boys under the age of two! They were looking for the baby Jesus, but didn’t find him. We told them about him to save our children, but it didn’t matter. O how we all wept and cried for weeks and months thereafter. O how cruel humans can be.
But then, I thought deeply about the Baby Jesus and the circumstances of his birth. I thought about the shepherds appearing, the angels singing, the wise men showing up. And suddenly it all became crystal clear! Jesus really was the Messiah! God did come to save us from this cruel world by giving us hope, light, and love in the form of that Baby! God protected Him from Herod’s evil and He would protect us from eternal evil. I began to sing my own version of: “Joy to the World, the Lord has come!” I shared that insight with others and through it, through the Gospel of Christ, peace came upon our anguished hearts. The Baby Jesus saves us from despair! As your hymn said: “The hopes and fears of all the years were met in Him that night!”
Well, so it can and will be for each of you, too. THE BABY JESUS BRINGS REAL PEACE! Not the fake earthly kind that lasts about 1 minute. But the kind that lasts forever. He’s the real deal. He is God reaching down from heaven to lift us up. Yes, God made peace with human beings in and through Jesus! And I, Eliezer of the “Wheat Sheaf” provided Him His first brief home in our stable.—Now, of course, I’ve rectified all that and am honored to have Him at home in my heart all the time! Finally, that first night when His little eyes looked at me and He smiled just a bit, I swear, I know, He had my future and yours in mind. Yes, believe in the Baby and God’s peace will be yours, too. Amen