Bethlehem. You know when.
“Knock knock,” said Joseph as he banged on the heavy door.
“Who’s there?” came a gruff voice from inside.
“Some travelers seeking shelter.”
“Sorry, no room at the inn.”
“But your sign says ‘Vacancy’.”
A slot opened in the door and an eye peered out, glowering. “That doesn’t mean anything. The sign also says ‘Free Wi-Fi’ and that won’t be invented for two thousand years.”
“Please, sir,” said Joseph. “My wife is expecting a baby at any hour.”
“God be with you.”
“You have no idea.”
“Can’t help you.” The slot slid shut.
Joseph knocked again. “Innkeeper! If you can show us hospitality, we’ll name the baby in your honor!”
Mary, sitting on a donkey, spoke up for the first time. “Joe, you can’t promise that! Remember what the angel told me nine months ago in Nazareth? We’re to name the child Jesus.”
“So what if we don’t?” Joseph shrugged. “It’s not like a name change is going to mess up God’s cosmic plan. We could call him Snagglepuss and he’d still grow up to be the Messiah.”
Joseph pounded the door. “Did you hear me, innkeeper? We’ll name our baby after you!”
The aperture opened again. “Did I hear you right? Really? You’ll name him Jesus?”
“Your name is Jesus?”
Mary rolled her eyes at her husband. “You are so lucky, Joe.”
“Look, maybe there’s something I can do,” said the innkeeper. “I’ll be right back.” The slot shut again.
Just then a voice shouted from a window above. “Joe! Hey, Joe! It’s your cousin Amos!” The couple looked up at a head stuck out one story above. “A little late in the day to find a room, isn’t it? Any luck?”
“Not sure. How are you, Amos?”
Mary whispered to her husband, “You never told me about a cousin Amos.”
“The less you know, the better,” he whispered back.
“I’m doing great!” Amos yelled down. “I’m a well-paid actor with the King Herod’s Players! We put on shows for his majesty’s entertainment. When I get back to Jerusalem after this census nonsense, I’m starring in a new production called Abrahamlet. It’s about a guy who can’t decide whether to put his faith in God or not. Hey, c’mon up and see my room! It’s huge!”
Joseph turned to Mary and sighed. “Wait here for the innkeeper.”
Joseph opened the door and made his way to the second floor. Amos stood in the crowded hallway, arms stretched wide for an embrace. “This is how big Herod’s grin gets whenever he sees my brilliant acting!”
Okay, not for an embrace.
He led Joseph into his room, a spacious chamber large enough to accommodate three families, yet Amos had it all to himself. “When I’m rehearsing a role, I need room to pace. It helps me learn my lines. Listen to this!” He launched into a monologue by his character. When finished, he closed his eyes and smiled, as though hearing the adulation of a large audience. Joseph didn’t know if he should clap or not, electing to just stand there until Amos emerged from his basking.
“As you can tell,” said Amos, “I’m a supremely gifted thespian, but I grow restless, Joe. I have so many untapped talents. Now I want to write. I want to write a play for Herod that history will forever consider the greatest story ever told. But I need an idea. Something epic! A spectacular concept with a cosmic scope! God and men, kings and peasants! I envision some unlikely protagonists on a stupendously precarious mission to save the world!”
“I should be getting back to my wife.”
“Stay here, Joe, the two of you! I’ve got plenty of space. Perhaps one of you will be my muse! It goes without saying that I’d be the creative genius– I doubt a lowly carpenter and his wife receive much in the way of divine inspiration– but I can bounce concepts off you, lines of dialogue, we’ll act out scenes together! Say yes, cousin! It will be the most meaningful thing you’ll ever do in your otherwise ordinary little life!”
“That’s quite an offer,” said Joseph. He left Amos’ quarters and returned to the first floor. The innkeeper approached him through the crowd.
“There you are! The best I can do is make room in the cave out back where I keep some animals. It’s dirty, smelly, cold and incredibly uncomfortable.”
Joseph smiled at the innkeeper, thinking of the warm, spacious accommodations now available upstairs.
“We’ll take it.”