The couple reached the city late at night. They were weary from traveling, she, very pregnant and not feeling well. They were looking for a place to spend the night. A hotel, an inn, anything would do as long as it was not too expensive.
That would not be easy, as they soon discovered. At the first hotel the manager, a bad-tempered man, immediately told them there was no room. At the second hotel, the man in charge of the front desk looked suspiciously at the couple and decided to ask them for documentation. The traveler said he didn’t have any. In their rush to get away, they had forgotten their documents.
“And how do you expect to find a place in a hotel if you have no documentation?” asked the man in charge. “How do I know that you will be able to pay your bill?”
The traveler said nothing in reply. He took his wife by the arm and went on ahead. At the third hotel there was also no room. At the fourth—it was only a modest inn—there was room, but the owner distrusted the couple and decided to say that the establishment was filled up. However, in order not to make a bad impression, he resolved to invent an excuse.
“You see, if the government would provide incentives, such as the large hotels enjoy, I would improve things here. I could even receive foreign delegations. But up ‘til now, I haven’t gotten anything. Now, if only you had influential friends … You don’t have any friends in high places, do you?”
The traveler hesitated, then replied, yes, perhaps they did know someone in high places.
“Well then,” said the innkeeper, “tell him about my inn. So that the next time you come perhaps I can offer you a first-class room with a bath and all that goes with it.”
The traveler thanked him, but noted regretfully that their problem was more urgent—they needed a room that very night. They continued on their way.
At the next hotel they almost succeeded. The manager was expecting a couple of well-known artists who were traveling incognito. When the travelers arrived, he thought they were his expected guests and said, yes, their room was indeed ready. He even paid them a compliment: “Your disguise is very good.”
“What disguise?” the traveler asked curiously. “Those clothes that you are wearing,” said the manager. “This is no disguise,” replied the traveler. “These are the only clothes we have.” The manager acknowledged his mistake. “I’m sorry,” he apologized. “I thought I had a spare room, but it appears they are all occupied.”
The couple went on. At the next hotel, there was also no vacancy, and the manager tried to crack a joke. Nearby was a manger, he said, why not stay there? It would not be very comfortable, but the traveler could pay from day to day. To the manager’s great surprise, the traveler welcomed this as a splendid idea and even thanked him. The couple went out to move into the manger.
Before long, three Wise Men appeared, inquiring about a couple of outsiders. And that is when the manager first began to suspect he might have missed a couple highly important guests who had just arrived in Bethlehem from Nazareth. *
This Christmas and in the years ahead, our joy as Christians is grounded in the truth that the baby actually born in the manner described in this story has chosen, by God’s grace, to make his eternal dwelling in our hearts. O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord!
* Translated by Louis J. Reith, Seward, Nebraska, USA, this text was first published in the book, “A Massagista Japonesa” Editora LPM — Porto Alegre, 1982, and excerpted from “Contos para um Natal brasileiro [Tales for a Brazilian Christmas]. Editora Relume: IBASE — Rio de Janeiro, 1966, p. 9.