Every night in December, my family sings a Christmas song, shares a Christmas scripture and reads a Christmas themed story. Bless my wife’s heart, she can’t make it through most of them without crying.
Last night, we read one of my favorites. For the holidays, I’d like to share it with you.
Trouble At The Inn
By Dina Donahue
For many years now, whenever Christmas pageants are talked about in a certain little town in the Midwest, someone is sure to mention the name of Wallace Purling. Wally's performance in one annual production of the nativity play has slipped onto the realm of legend. But the old-timers who were in the audience that night never tire of recalling exactly what happened.
Wally was nine that year and in the second grade, though he should have been in the fourth. Most people in town knew that he had difficulty in keeping up. He was big and clumsy, slow in movement and mind. Still, his class, all of whom were smaller than he, had trouble hiding their irritation when Wally would ask to play ball with them or any game, for that matter, in which winning was important.
Most often they'd find a way to keep him out but Wally would hang around anyway not sulking, just hoping. He was always a helpful boy, a willing and smiling one, and the natural protector of the underdog. Sometimes if the older boys chased the younger ones away, it would always be Wally who'd say, "can' they stay? They're no bother"
Wally fancied the ideal of being a shepherd with a flute in the Christmas pageant that year, but the play's director, Miss Lumbar, assigned him to a more important role. After all, she reasoned, the Innkeeper did not have too many lines and Wally's size would make his refusal of lodging to Joseph more forceful.
And so it happened that the usual large, partisan audience gathered for the town's yearly extravaganza of beard, crown, halos and a whole stage full of squeaky voices. No one on stage or off was more caught up on the m*gic of the night than Wallace Purling. They said later that he stood in the wings and watched the performance with such fascination that from time to time Miss Lumbar had to make sure he didn't' wander on stage before his cue.
Then the time came when Joseph appeared, slowly, tenderly guiding Mary to the door of the Inn. Joseph knocked hard on the wooden door sat into the painted backdrop. Wally the innkeeper was there, waiting.
"What do you want?" Wally said, swinging the door open with a brusque gesture.
"We seek lodging."
"Seek it elsewhere," Wally looked straight ahead but spoke vigorously. "The Inn is filled."
"Sir, we have asked everywhere in vain. We have traveled far and are very weary."
"There is no room in this Inn for you." Wally looked properly stern.
"Please, good Innkeeper, this is my wife, Mary. She is heavy with child and needs a place to rest. Surely you must have some small corner for her. She is so tired."
Now, for the first time, the Innkeeper relaxed his still stance and looked down at Mary. With that, there was a long pause, long enough to make the audience a bit tense with embarrassment. "No! Be gone!" the prompter whispered from the wings.
"No!" Wally repeated automatically, "Be gone!"
Joseph sadly placed his arm around Mary and Mary laid her head upon her husband's shoulder and the two of them started to move away. The Innkeeper did not return inside his Inn, however. Wally stood there in the doorway, watching the forlorn couple. His mouth was open, his brow creased with concern, his eyes filling unmistakable with tears.
And suddenly the Christmas pageant became different from all the others.
"Don't go, Joseph," Wally called out. "Bring Mary back." And Wallace Purling's face grew into a bright smile. "You can have my room!"
Some people in town thought that the pageant had been ruined. Yet there were others.... many, many others... who considered it the most Christmassy of all Christmas pageants they had ever seen.