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Letter from Bethlehem

December 2003 | by Derek Swann

Dear Rebecca,

At long last a quiet moment to let you have some news. For weeks we’ve been up to our eyes coping with the census crowds. I sincerely hope Caesar Augustus doesn’t decide to have another one for a very long time.

We’ve been busy day and night. Everyone was wanting something or other, all at the same time. It has taken us a month to recover from it all.

However, what I really wanted to tell you about are some strange goings-on at our inn. As I said, we were full to overflowing when this young couple came in. She was heavily pregnant, and looked exhausted.

Of course, they asked for the impossible – a room! I sighed and told them there wasn’t an inch of space anywhere. They just looked at each other, then at me, and my heart went out to them – but what could I do?

Then I remembered the old stable. Not really a fit place to bring a baby into the world – but it was that or nothing. They accepted it gladly, so I got Hannah to show them where it was and help them a bit.

She wasn’t too pleased, because she had half a dozen jobs to do. But when she saw the girl (her name was Mary, and his was Joseph) her heart melted.

Later, Hannah came in to say the baby had arrived and all was well. I asked if the baby had a name and she said it was ‘Jesus’. Nothing unusual about that. Except that apparently the name was chosen because – and here’s the amazing thing – he would ‘save his people from their sins’!

But that’s not all. Just before dawn, a bunch of shepherds arrived wanting to see this baby. When Hannah told me, I nearly hit the roof. I didn’t want any thieving, shifty-eyed shepherds near our inn.

I dashed out to warn them off. But here’s a strange thing, Rebecca – they were respectful and apologised for troubling us. Shepherds apologising? I couldn’t believe my ears!

I asked what they were up to. One of them said, ‘We’ve come to see the Saviour, who is Christ the Lord’.

You know me Rebecca, I’m not over-religious. But when I heard those words, a strange calm came over me. I wouldn’t say this to any-one else but, for a moment, heaven seemed to come down to earth.

I told your father, I really must take time to go down to the stable and see for myself, but I never did.

If you think that strange, just listen to this. A short time later, when the couple and their baby had found lodgings in the town, three obviously wealthy men came to Bethlehem.

They weren’t interested in accommodation, only in the baby, just like the shepherds. When asked, they simply said, ‘We’ve come to bring gifts to the King of the Jews’.

Now, what do you make of all that? A Saviour and a King born in our stable? It seems incredible.

I wish with all my heart I hadn’t been too busy to go and see the baby for myself, and find out more.

Anyway what’s done is done, or rather not done. Perhaps it was just a ten-days wonder.

Love from both of us,


P.S. Something terrible just happened. That brute Herod sent a squad of soldiers and killed every baby boy under two years old in Bethlehem and the villages around. No reason given at all – the man is a monster!

Your father wondered if it might have something to do with the baby from our inn.