(December 12, 2020) Brian Bell shares a point from one particular Christmas nativity play …
If you have young children and or grandchildren, then this story may resonate in your heart. For me it is more poignant in the current restricted climate which has prevented us gathering at school this year to see our children or grandchildren in the expected Christmas nativity play.
One aspect of the Christmas story is that of no vacancy for Joseph and Mary at the Bethlehem inn – as Luke 2:7 says, ‘… there was no lodging available for them.‘
I don’t believe the following telling of one particular Christmas nativity play will cause any offence (it’s my adapted version of one that, I understand, was first published in The Baptist Herald, December 1968 in my teen years, and has since been adapted elsewhere in various forms).
Wallace was just nine years old.
Most people in town knew that he had difficulty keeping up in school. Big and a bit clumsy, he was slow in movement and in mind. His class, all of whom were smaller than Wallace, would get a little irritated when Wallace would ask to play games with them. Especially when winning was important and even though they would try to keep Wallace out, he would hang around anyway – not sulking, mind you – just hoping he would be asked to play.
He was always a helpful and willing boy, smiling and the natural protector of the younger children. If the older boys chased the younger ones away it would always be Wallace who’d say, ‘Can’t they stay, they’re no bother.’
In hindsight, it seems that Wallace’s caring attitude for the underdog was preparation for something that happened later one Christmas play.
Wallace really wanted to be a shepherd with a flute in the school Christmas play that year. However, the teacher gave him a more important role, after all she thought, the Innkeeper did not have too many lines and Wallace’s size would make his refusal of Joseph and Mary more forceful.
The day arrived for the gathering of mums, dads, and grandparents in the school hall. The stage was full of children dressed in costume all waiting to do their part, no one was more caught up in the whole extravaganza than Wallace.
Then came the time when Joseph and Mary arrived. Joseph knocked on the pretend wooden door – and out came Wallace the innkeeper.
‘What do you want?’ Wallace demanded rather abruptly.
‘We seek lodging’ said the boy playing Joseph.
Wallace looked straight ahead – but spoke his next line firmly: ‘Seek it elsewhere – this inn is full.’
‘Sir, we’ve asked everywhere in vain. We have travelled very far and are very weary’ said the boy playing Joseph.
‘There is no room in this inn for you!’ said Wallace, looking as stern as he could.
‘Please good innkeeper, this is my wife Mary; she is to give birth to a child and needs a place to rest. She is so tired. Surely you must have some small corner where we can rest.’
Wallace relaxed his still and firm stance and looked down at the little figure of the young girl dressed as Mary. There was a long pause – (from the side the teacher prompted him in a whisper, ‘No, be gone.’) – but instead Wallace spoke rather loudly and gruffly, ‘No! Be gone!’
Joseph sadly placed his arm around Mary, and she laid her head on his shoulder and the two of them started to move away.
But Wallace the innkeeper did not go back inside his pretend inn – he stood in the doorway watching the saddened couple move away.
Then bighearted Wallace’s mouth opened – and his eyes were filling with tears. Suddenly this Christmas play became different from any other for he called out ‘so caringly, ‘Don’t go, Joseph… bring Mary back…’
His face broke into a great big smile as he gently and warmly declared – ‘You can have my room.’ Not an old unclean, unhealthy manger, not some small corner but his room!
Some people said the play had been ruined – however, most said it was the best Christmas story of all.
The above incident touched hearts! It still touches hearts… it even reaches young hearts!
May I respectfully suggest that if you have young children or grandchildren then think about reading this little Christmas story to them – I’ve found it to be well received by those with whom I have shared it.
For my part, I have to say, Wallace had better insight into the whole story… the need for an open heart if we are to make room for Jesus in our lives!
Indeed this heartfelt story captures the attitude of the carol In the Bleak Midwinter (based on a poem by the English poet Christina Rossetti)…
‘What can I give Him,
Poor as I am? –
If I were a Shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part, –
Yet what I can I give Him, –
Give my heart.
Jesus’ words in Revelation 3:20 comes to mind: ‘Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.’
Brian Bell is a diaconate member, Christ Church (Congregational) Abbots Cross, Northern Ireland, and a volunteer with Disabled Christians Fellowship Ireland. He describes himself as ‘grateful for the privilege and opportunity given me to serve my Lord.’