Hi, Tom Bodavid here for Motel 1, talking about that trip back to the old hometown. You’ve been on the road three days with your wife and donkey, and your wife isn’t really up to traveling right now, so the only one who doesn’t complain is the donkey. He’s a good listener and doesn’t interrupt when you tell him what you think about Caesar’s census idea.
You finally pull into Bethlehem and look for a place to stay. Sure enough, there’s a Motel 1 right down the street. It’s not fancy, but there should be a corner to sleep in and room to park the donkey. Your wife has been looking pretty green for the last five or six miles, so you get a little worried when the clerk says you should have made reservations. Yep, everybody who ever said he’s descended from old King David is in town. David’s been dead for a few hundred years, and his kids had big families, so the whole town’s booked up.
They say when things are bad, you should cheer up because things could be worse. You tell this to your wife, and sure enough, things get worse. She says that you’d better find a room where kids stay free, because by morning you’ll have one. You find a place down the street, but you have to stay in the donkey’s room. I guess he had reservations.
The stable is dark and smelly, but it isn’t all bad. The animals behave better than some of the tourists. Still, you would have liked a nicer place to have a baby, but that doesn’t matter any more. He’s beautiful, and you both look at him a long time before you wrap him up. There’s something strange about putting God to bed in a feeding trough, but you figure He knows what he’s doing. At least this place is cheap. You’re both exhausted and lie down to sleep. This is tricky because the straw itches.
About midnight, you wake up. The stable smells worse than it did, and it’s crowded. You see a mob of sweaty shepherds who ran all the way into town to see the child. You thought the only kids shepherds cared about were goats. They’re telling a fantastic story about angels, and shushing each other so they won’t wake the baby. Your wife drinks in everything they say. Finally the last visitor leaves, some kid with a drum. His solo was nice, but the ox and lamb have been tapping their feet ever since and won’t shut up.
The alarm cock goes off, and it’s another day, and then another and another. You’ll have to go to Jerusalem in a few more days, so you go ahead and rent a house. It isn’t much, but at least the donkey’s out of the room. You’re beginning to wish you had stopped the newspaper delivery back in Nazareth.
After the Temple visit in Jerusalem, you think about home up north as you walk away from it, south toward Bethlehem. This has been a long, odd, and expensive trip. So you’re half awake and only half surprised when three rich foreigners pop in that night with gifts for the King of the Jews. You feel strange because you’re only a carpenter, not a king’s father. But the King trusted you with his son because you’re David’s descendant and the baby’s legal link to the throne. You wonder what Herod will think about that.
You ask the strangers how they knew where to find the baby. They show you a star overhead which they followed for months and hundreds of miles, ever since God told them, “I’ll leave the light on for you.”
(Author’s note: I wrote this around 2000. Looking back, it must have been the germ for Mary in Transit, which was published last year. D.B.)