TANYA MARLOW is my guest writer. You will love her strong and insightful take on the innkeeper in the story of Jesus' birth.
They were filthy, both of them. The donkey, too. They stank, and the woman was drenched in sweat. So, there was that, for a start.Plus, they couldn’t have chosen at a worse time to turn up – the house was already teeming with Roman soldiers, and I was out of ideas to keep the kids entertained quietly. Trust me: you do not want to annoy an armed Roman soldier.I knew they’d be trouble, even before he’d opened his mouth.
They were distant relatives on the Eleazar side of the Bethlehem clan.
To me, he was just a stranger. Behind me, I could hear the soldiers taking yet another bottle of wine out of the cellar. It would be a raucous night. I didn’t have time for this.But I would have taken them in, despite their stench. That’s not why I turned them away.And I’ll admit, the fact that his wife was possibly in labour gave me pause. I’m a mother, too.But I shut the door, and I kept it shut, holding my body against the door, even when he was pounding on it from the other side. It wasn’t easy to hear, ‘Please, please,’ and the woman’s moans as the knocks continued, then faded, then eventually stopped. That was a little hard for me. But it was the right thing to do.Before you judge me – I’m the most hospitable woman on the East Side of Bethlehem. Ask anyone. We all gather at my table for Passover because I have the best food. I feed people, I help the poor – I’m as devout as they come. It would have been impossible to fit them in.Yet I would have done the impossible because I’m a faithful believer, proud of my heritage as one of God’s chosen people. I’m not a bad person. I shut the door precisely because of my faithfulness to God.

At the moment he mentioned Galilee, a memory stirred: the rushed wedding, the jobbing carpenter. While the Jerusalem cousins had been gushing about miracles and messiahs, Aunt Naomi had filled me in on the whole scandal.

Some people are so gullible! Well, I’m not, and neither is Aunt Naomi.

“Rachel!” she’d said to me, taking another of my delicious homemade fig-cakes, “Rachel, some people will tell themselves anything to cover up their sin.”

Some people will tell themselves anything to cover up their sin. I’d nodded.

These people weren’t like us, I could see that now. They were greedy, careless, immoral, God-forsaking people. And here they were, standing at my door, asking for favours! She should have been grateful to have been alive at all, and not stoned to death, as the good law says. I would not stain myself by inviting sin under my roof.

What about my children, after all? What message would that send? Sometimes tough love is the only way.

If only they had found a place of shelter a little farther away.

I don’t know for sure where they ended up, but I could hear her moans through the window while I tried to sleep. They were not in a house, I knew that much. I had flashbacks to my six labours, only three of which ended in a live baby. Once, I had nearly died.

No, I told myself. Disgrace is contagious. What would my friends say if they knew I’d been associating with these sinners? Reputations can be changed in an instant – and I had my family to think of.

I snuggled closer to my husband, who was snoring, and tried to warm my feet. Maybe that would bring sleep.

A slow doubt crept across my heart: what if their story was true? What if these suspicious-looking, bedraggled, flea-bitten pair were really chosen by God? It seemed unlikely, but I ought to give it thought.

I knew, in theory, that the heroes of the Torah were a mixed bunch, but these people didn’t have any halo of blessing about them. They were just poor. Their desperation reeked.

Desperate people lie. You don’t want to be deceived by their sob story. You don’t want to be manipulated.

I turned over in bed, trying to get comfortable. Again, a cry of anguish javelined through my window. Her pain seemed to be increasing. I wondered if the birth was going wrong. The thought came to me: I could help them. They would be easy to find. I could offer them some hot water or towels, or my midwifery skills – I dare say cousin Joseph hadn’t witnessed many births.

I almost left my bed then. But my feet were warming up. It was a rare moment of quiet in the house; the soldiers had finally gone to bed. I had no desire to wake them – did I mention you don’t want to annoy a Roman soldier?

I imagined them, out there. I pictured the baby: cold, naked.

But I was snug and warm, and I didn’t want to move.

‘Someone else should help them. A gentile, perhaps,’ I thought, as I drifted off to sleep.

You can read the rest of this insightful article on Tanya’s home page. Click on this link: http://tanyamarlow.com/god-in-disguise-prepare-them-room-1/

Picture by Robyn Dolan – The Catholic Sun

Bev has been a senior church leader for more than three decades both in Australia and UK. Speaking internationally at churches and conferences, she is passionate about the need for strong, loving and effective Christian leaders to influence their worlds. Her insights into Church life and leadership have fitted her well to help churches and organisations transition well from one season to the next.

She has a Masters degree in Global Leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary USA, writes for various magazines and is the author of two books – Speak Life and Shut the Hell Up, and Catalysts:You Can Be God’s Agent For Change. She has mentored scores of leaders. If you’re interested in engaging her to help develop your leadership gifting to the next level, you can contact her at bevmurrill@icloud.com

Bev is the founder of Christian Growth International, Liberti Magazine UK, Cherish Uganda,  Kyria Network for women leaders UK and Australia, and  Scarlet Women. She has transitioned many of these organisations to new leadership with great effect and is often consulted regarding the principles of a good leadership transition, regularly lecturing on leadership.

If you are interested in having Bev speak at your conference, church or leadership team, you can contact her on bevmurrill@icloud.com or via this website.