That Night

Bible Reference: Luke 2.1-7 (PDF)

That Night focuses on the Bethlehem inn-keeper, Jethro, and his wife, Sarah. It is based on assumptions similar to Counted!

It was getting late. At last a whole innful of chattering people and tired beasts seemed to be settling down for a night's rest and sleep. For Jethro, the keeper of Bethlehem's only inn, it had been a long, hard day. Of course, a day like this meant well-earned income, but then... Jethro was wondering when he joined his wife, Sarah, in their little room overlooking the courtyard.
JETHRO:Well, Sarah, here are the day's takings, but I don't like it!
SARAH:You've certainly earned every denarius you've taken today! Hardly had time for lunch!
JETHRO:"Every denarius", you say. That's it! Every denarius!
SARAH:Something's bothering you, Jethro!
JETHRO:Every denarius... Take a look at them! Every one of them has Caesar's head stamped on it! And why have we got this inn crammed full of people? Why is it we couldn't squeeze another pet cat in, let alone another person? Now tell me that, Sarah!
SARAH:Well, of course, it's the census - we're all being counted!
JETHRO:But that's not the point. Why, my dear wife, why are we being counted? Why does Caesar want to know how many Jews there are? Mark my words - it isn't so he will know how many beloved Jews he has in his Empire! He wants to know how many of his beloved denarii he can gather back to Rome in taxes!
SARAH:Jethro, do be careful what you say! We don't know who might be listening!
JETHRO:Sarah, you say I've earned every denarius we've taken today! Then guess who will be here tomorrow! The tax-collector, of course! He'll be here for Caesar's cut - plus his own!
SARAH:Well, at least we're doing it our way!
JETHRO:What do you mean?
SARAH:The Romans might be able to tell us we have to be enrolled, but we Jews can still do it our way!
JETHRO:I don't see what you're getting at. After all, the order said, "Everyone must go to his own city for the census." That's why our inn's full tonight!
SARAH:But, Jethro, you don't really think that's what the Romans meant, do you?
JETHRO:Well, what else?
SARAH:Look, Jethro, every tax-collector has his own territory. All they need to know is the number of people in each territory.
JETHRO:Then you're suggesting...
SARAH:Yes, I am. Most people they want enrolled in Bethlehem could have walked here in a couple of hours. A few might have needed to be put up over night, and that would have been it!
JETHRO:Ah, but God's people have never been counted that way. We wouldn't even let pagans count us like that!
SARAH:And so - Jews have been on the move all over the place, going back to their family home-towns. Why? So we can be counted by tribes and families!
JETHRO:I wonder, Sarah... I wonder if it'll throw all their calculations out!
SARAH:Well, it's bedtime now. Tomorrow will come soon enough.
(a knock)
JETHRO:Not someone else! It can't be! We've got no room. I suppose I'd better see who it is before they wake up the guests with their knocking.
(Jethro goes to see)
SARAH (aside):It's heavy on us because this is David's town. Some last distant descendant of King David. Well, they could have turned up a lot earlier! It's not fair on my Jethro! I don't care who it is, we haven't got space for them!
(Jethro returns)
JETHRO:Well, that's that! A couple from Galilee. Baby coming pretty soon, I'd say!
SARAH:But you didn't leave them in the cold, did you, Jethro?
JETHRO:Oh no! Directed them down to the stable. There should be a quiet corner there somewhere. Not so bad for poor folks like them. What a day - and what a night!
The night was not yet over and a new kind of day was about to dawn. For Mary gave birth to her baby. She wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a feeding-box because there was no room for them in the inn.

From Between the Lines. Dialogues for Worship by Peter J. Blackburn published by Testimonium Fellowship 1992, (c) Peter J. Blackburn.
Permission is given for copying of this document for local use with this copyright notice intact. For any other proposed use the specific permission of Peter J. Blackburn must be sought.

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