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A day like no other

By Res Spears

Special to the News-Herald

The thing about historic events is that folks don’t usually get notice that they’re about to happen. One minute you’re going on about your business like any other day, and the next minute, everything has changed.

I like to think about what was going on in Bethlehem that day when Jesus was born.

The people throughout the land that was under the control of Caesar Augustus were all returning to the cities and towns of their birth to be counted in the census. It’s likely there was a tax involved, as well, so maybe they were grumpy about it.

But for the shopkeepers and the innkeepers and the Uber donkey drivers and all the other people involved with commerce, this was a windfall. With all the people returning to their families in Bethlehem, that little town would have been a mini-metropolis for a short time.

People were selling chickens and lambs and fig cakes and fruit and all sorts of foods that grandmas and mothers and aunts and sisters would be using to prepare for their family meals. Think about your family’s Thanksgiving dinners, and you’ll get the picture.

And with all these folks coming into town, houses began to fill up, and the innkeepers were rubbing their hands together with glee, knowing their rooms were all going to be full.

At one of those inns, a young, pregnant girl and the man to whom she was betrothed heard the innkeeper say there were no vacancies. They would have to find room amongst the animals for her to deliver her child.

I wonder if the innkeeper ever gave another thought to what was happening nearby. I imagine that as Mary struggled through her labor, he was going about his business-as-usual, getting things ready for the next morning. People would need to be fed, and the night’s receipts would need to be counted.

And meanwhile, the history of the world was changing in that stable, as Joseph laid the Son of God in a manger to sleep.

On a hillside nearby, shepherds were tending their flocks, just as they did every other day, when suddenly they found themselves surrounded by an angel choir, singing “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

The shepherds hurried into town to see the wonder of which they had been informed during this heavenly newscast, and, as a former newspaper guy, I am especially pleased to know that they left that young family and went out into the town to tell the good news.

The eternal God who created the universe with the breath of His voice had descended from heaven in the person of His Son. He had clothed Himself in the mortal flesh of a helpless infant. And so He had unveiled the plan by which He would reconcile fallen mankind to Himself.

And as the shepherds were proclaiming this news around town, I picture an innkeeper going about his normal duties, completely unaware that this was, in fact, a day like no other.

The Rev. Res Spears is the interim pastor at Liberty Spring Christian Church. He is a former editor of the Suffolk News-Herald. Email him at libertyspring.suffolk@gmail.com.