Bartholomew: The Innkeeper with Compassion

My name is Bartholomew. My wife Abigail and I have been innkeepers in Bethlehem for sixty years. Today a distinguished physician named Luke took a room at our inn and asked if my wife and I would join him for supper.

Abigail runs the kitchen, I take care of the rooms, and our adoptive daughter Amaris serves the meals to the guests. For tonight's meal Abigail prepared her favorite mutton stew then joined Luke and me at the corner table in the dining area.

After Abigail was seated, Luke said, "They tell me this is the inn where Jesus was born. Is that true?"

"Yes, but why do you ask about that miraculous birth of sixty years ago?"

"I am traveling across Judea, Samaria, and Galilee talking with eyewitnesses of the events of Jesus' life to write an account for Theophilus. Do you remember Jesus' birth?"

"Oh, yes, as if it were only yesterday. Joseph asked for a room for his wife. Of course at the time, the inn was already filled with travelers coming to register for the Roman census."

"But if you were full, how was it that the family stayed here?"

"As I was turning Joseph away, Abigail walked past me to the young woman saying, 'Why, you are heavy with child and appear tired. Your husband can make you a bed in the covered stable behind the inn. He will find plenty of clean straw.'"

"So they spent the winter night in your stable?"

Abigail's expression was radiant as she spoke, "The young mother-to-be told me her name was Mary and that she and Joseph had traveled from Nazareth in Galilee. Joseph was a large man. His hands bore heavy calluses. Mary looked small beside her powerful husband but was strong in her own right. Once they had decided to stay, I loaned Joseph two sheepskin covers and Mary several cotton cloths, for she looked ready to give birth."

"Was Mary's baby born that night?"

"Yes, but she wasn't alone. Shortly after dusk Abigail and I were awakened by footsteps outside our window. When we looked to see who it was, we saw a group of shepherds moving toward the stable so we decided to join them. When we got to the stable, the shepherds knelt down around the baby who was wrapped in cotton cloths and lying in the manger. There was a radiance beaming out from the baby and the mother."

"Why did the shepherds come?"

"One of the shepherds told me they had been tending their flocks when an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them saying, 'Do not be afraid, for I bring you good news of a great joy for a baby has been born in Bethlehem, for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. You will find Him wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.'"

The olive oil in the lamp on the table was getting low, and all the other guests had retired to their rooms. The hour was late and Luke, Abigail, and I had lost track of time as we discussed Jesus' birth. By this time, Amaris had joined us at the table after cleaning up the kitchen.

"Have you told me all you know about the life of Jesus?"

"There is more about the day Jesus was crucified. Amaris and her husband Judd and their young sons, David and Zared, were staying in our stable the week before the crucifixion. Judd had been harshly accused of stealing some vegetables in the market, and he and another robber were crucified on either side of Jesus. Amaris has remained with us like a daughter, and David and Zared now have families of their own."

Amaris' face and hair were damp from her work in the kitchen, so she dabbed her face with her apron before leaning forward into the light of the olive oil lamp. Amaris had a beautiful face and an even more beautiful spirit. The three of us could tell she wanted to speak, so we waited.

Shyly she began, "Judd was not a bad man. He took some food for us, his hungry family. Even though he died a cruel death, I have a peace, knowing Jesus, and having been told His words on the cross for Judd were, 'Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise.' As a follower of Jesus, I know that I too shall be reunited with Judd in heaven some day."

Abigail, with tears welling up in her eyes, reached out for Amaris' hands. Luke placed his hands on top of theirs. Then I placed my hands on his. Amaris bowed her head and quietly thanked the Lord for His goodness and for bringing Luke our way. The silent moment following her prayer only served to draw us closer, then I said, "Amen." And everyone else said, "Amen."

With that we lifted our heads only to find that there wasn't a dry eye among us. Luke began to gather his notes and thanked us for our time as it was getting well into the evening hours. Amaris picked up the dishes while Abigail brushed the crumbs off of the table and I pushed in the chairs. All was quiet when I picked up the lamp and guided everyone to their rooms.

Based on Luke 1:1-4, 2:1-20, 23:39-43.

Copyright 1997 by John C. Westervelt

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