Note: This is a one-act Christmas play I wrote years ago for a Christmas pageant. It was to be read aloud by three people; the narrator, Joshua the innkeeper and Abigail, his wife. Joshua was the one who gave Joseph and Mary room in his stable as there was no room for them in the inn.
NARRATOR: The birth of Jesus Christ happened this way, as found in Luke 2:1, 3-4: “And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed…And all went to be taxed, everyone into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David.)”
By this time, Joseph and Mary were married and were preparing to travel to Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary’s family feared for her safety as she was heavily pregnant and traveling so close to her time. But Mary calmly reminded them all that God had promised to be with them through everything. She looked shyly up at Joseph, and with his help confidently mounted their little gray donkey. Waving their goodbyes, they headed for Bethlehem.
Now at this time, every innkeeper in Bethlehem was overjoyed by the prospect of so many coming into the city. More visitors meant more money, and each tried to make the most of the space they had, so as to fit more people in. Joshua, an innkeeper close to the city, made his rooms as clean as possible, and made sure that there was plenty of food prepared ahead of time, His wife, Abigail, bustled through the back door with her apron full of fresh bread.
Abigail: “I’ll say one thing about this taxation foolishness—every inn in the city will make lots of money. And if I have anything to say about it, ours will make the most.”
Joshua: Now Abby dear, you can’t make people come here. Our rooms will be filled, I have no doubt…..I’ll leave you to finish up in here, and I’ll go put fresh straw in the beds.”
Abigail: “What for? The straw already in the beds is good enough. People don’t care as long as they have a place to lay their heads!”
Joshua: “I care, Abby. Most of them will have come a great distance and we can at least make them comfortable.”
Abigail: “Comfortable?!” We’ll never see them again!”
NARRATOR: Joshua looked at her sadly, and left. Although he loved his wife dearly, it hurt him to see how hard she had become following the the death of their only son, Samuel. Sometimes he thought it was as if Samuel had taken all the light and happiness out of their lives when he died.
Born to them after nearly ten years of marriage, he was their most precious treasure. He was full of mischief and joy, and kept the house filled with laughter and boyish mayhem. How many times had he smuggled a chicken or a small piglet into his bed at night, thrusting it up at Abigail when she went in to kiss him good night?
Joshua smiled to himself, remembering the inevitable chase that happened—-the frantic squawking chicken or the squealing piglet running for the door, with Samuel close behind, followed by a red-faced and shouting Abigail, trying hard not to laugh.
Samuel also loved to help Joshua feed the animals in the stable. Even when he was a little boy, he demanded to help milk the cows and comb burrs out of the horse’s tail.
All that had ended much too soon fourteen years later when Samuel died suddenly of an infection from a small cut on his foot. Abigail, skilled in gathering and using herbs for healing, could do little for him but ease his pain. Even as he weakened, he knew them both, smiling at them and telling them not to be sad. He told them that he knew where he was going and was happy. He also said that he knew he would see them again someday.
Even in the crushing grief that followed, Joshua remembered those words and was comforted by them. But Abigail would not be comforted. She blamed herself for not being able to heal her son, and before long became embittered and sarcastic. The only times she smiled now was when they stood a chance to make more money, as with the taxation.
Bethlehem was rapidly filling with new people coming into the city. As dusk came, latecomers went from inn to inn, desperate for rooms. One of these was Joseph. He and Mary had had to travel slowly, for, although Mary wouldn’t complain, he could tell by her white face that each joggling step of the donkey hurt her. He took off his cloak and put it on the grass near a tree and made her sit down and rest while he hunted for a place to stay for the night. So far, he had been turned away four times. With a heavy heart, he walked into Joshua’s inn.
Abigail was sitting at the long table by the door, tying off bundles of fragrant herbs. She looked up quickly at Joseph as he entered; noticed his poor clothing and looked pointedly at her husband.
Joshua: “Welcome, friend! Are you here for the taxation?”
NARRATOR: Joseph nodded and smiled wearily as he introduced himself. “I hope you have a room left,” he said. “My wife is expecting our first child soon and is very uncomfortable. If you can find a space for her I’ll gladly sleep outside.”
Joshua’s face fell, because he knew that they had just filled their last room.
Joshua: “I’m so sorry, but we have no more rooms at all. Every bed I have is taken; in fact, there are even people sleeping on the roof! Your first child, did you say?”
NARRATOR: Joseph smiled and said, “yes; we’re very happy about it, but we’ve been traveling for a long time, and it’s been very hard on my wife, Mary.”
He looked down at his dusty feet in their tattered sandals and said, “I’ve never been a father before, and it’s, well—do you have children?”
Abigail drew in her breath sharply, and abruptly left the room.
The rest of the story will be told tomorrow—stay tuned.