The Night the Hotels Were Full

file0001472960139The 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!

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* 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.

Children

Credit:  Al Jazeera

Credit: Al Jazeera

Yesterday’s newspaper reported horrific news from Peshawar, Pakistan. The Pakistani Taliban had already bombed or burned over 1,000 schools. Then they shot Malala Yousafzai, the teenage advocate for girls’ rights and 2014 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

“But on Tuesday, the Taliban took their war on education to a ruthless new low, with a concerted assault on a crowded school in Peshawar that killed 145 people — 132 of them uniformed schoolchildren [ages 5-17] — in the deadliest single attack in the group’s history.” (New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/17/world/asia/taliban-attack-pakistani-school.html?_r=0)

The lives of parents and other family members of the children in Pakistan, like those of the children in Newtown, Conn., will never be the same. Lord, have mercy!

On another note about children, many of you have asked about three little ones I’ve mentioned in Perspectives articles, asking for prayer in their behalf. These are the premature triplets born to my nephew Doug and his wife Diana Wheaton’s daughter last Christmas, December 25, 2013. So they are my sister Carol’s great grandchildren, my mother Elda’s great great grandchildren and Terry’s and my great grandnephew/nieces. Each weighed one pound and a few ounces.

Logan went to heaven on December 26, 2013, one day after his birth. He was laid to rest in a family graveside burial service shortly thereafter.

Here’s the latest update on Anna Christine and Emma Grace from their mother, Amanda Collins:

“Emma and Anna both weigh over 15 lbs. now. Anna cut her first two teeth this week and began crawling some today! Anna has had two surgeries, both after her four month stay in NICU. Anna’s first word was “Anna.” She has reflux disease but is otherwise perfectly fine, a true miracle for a baby born in the 24th week of pregnancy.”

“Emma has had four laser eye surgeries, eye injections, two scleral buckle operations, a vetrectomy on her right eye, a nissen, g-tube, and tracheostomy. Emma will be getting glasses tomorrow, passed her swallow study today so she can start learning to bottle feed again, and is making huge strides in catching up developmentally. She is scheduled to come home on a ventilator Thursday morning. Emma has been in four different hospitals and has been hospitalized almost a year. She loves music.”

“Both girls are extremely happy and playful. We appreciate everyone’s continued prayers.”

Thank you for your prayers and concerns, dear friends in Christ. God is faithful, enabling this family to live through a frightening and exhausting year. Christmas will always have a very special meaning to Amanda, her husband Jesse and the rest of the family who still mourn Logan’s passing, while being truly thankful for Anna and Emma’s progress and development.

Advent blessings to each of you!

Ferguson

Credit:  NBC News

Credit: NBC News

Seemingly, the dust has settled a bit on the protests, demonstrations and looting in Ferguson, Missouri. Those activities followed the decision of a grand jury not to indict the policeman who shot an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, a few months ago.

As most are aware, the protests, demonstrations and looting spread from Ferguson to places as far away as Oakland, Cal. and New York City. Stores were burned, valuable items were looted, bridges were blocked and mayhem was unleashed.

A public servant in Milwaukee County who was interviewed on national television said that the biggest source of the problem is lack of respect for authority. When young men are raised with no responsible adult male in the family, respect for authority often does not develop.

When such young men are confronted by policemen for unlawful behavior, including robbery and resisting arrest, those young men all too often react violently. That violent response triggers forceful actions by law enforcement officers that result in injury or even death of the perpetrator, of the protector, or of both.

The Commandments given by God to Moses millennia ago are still apropos today, particularly:

  • The Fifth Commandment: You shall not kill.
  • The Seventh Commandment: You shall not steal.

No one I know is happy when any person, especially a young person, is shot and killed, particularly by an officer of the law. No one I know condones or supports wrongful behavior in response to legal decisions properly made. The troubles in Ferguson and other parts of our country are improper, inappropriate and wrongful responses to wrongful behavior.

What’s the bottom line?

  • If you don’t violate the law, you won’t have trouble with officers of the law.
  • If you do have trouble with the law, don’t exacerbate the situation with acts of violence.
  • It’s unrealistic to expect sinful human beings to end such violence automatically.
  • We have much work to do in our church, our country and our world to restore proper respect for time honored, God given values and the people who teach and enforce them.

In the meantime, it will take a miracle for what happened in Ferguson never to happen again!

Some of God’s Greatest Gifts

Child 1This past week I saw a Facebook posting of a little child who was able to hear for the first time in her life. While I don’t recall all the details and tried in vain to find the posting again, what I do recall is that this little child initially cried when the hearing instrument was put in place. Soon thereafter her tears were replaced with a series of smiles at hearing her first sounds. Priceless!

Throughout my life I’ve been guilty of taking for granted the God-given senses of hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch. I’ve never experienced what life is like without them and the older I get the more aware I am of the blessings they bring. I’ve also become more keenly aware of the challenges faced by people who are either born without all of these senses or who lose one or more through illness or injury.

So if you, like I, have been blessed with all five senses and if all of them are still working, count your blessings and be sensitive to what life is like for anyone who is not so blessed. If you are without the ability to see, to hear, to smell, to taste or to touch, thank God for the senses you do have. And be assured that many of us have special respect and admiration for your determination to live life without all of these five senses, some of God’s greatest gifts.