Author Emil Brunner tells a story of 9-year-old Jenny, who had heard the Christmas story many times, but could never get over the injustice of the expectant couple left without lodging because the inn at Bethlehem was already filled. So the next Christmas Eve, when her family traditionally read the Nativity story, she asked if she could be the reader.
Jenny took the scriptures in her hands and read the old, old story aloud, but with a new twist. When she came to the part about the inn, she ad-libbed. Jenny had Joseph say to the innkeeper: “Good evening, sir. My wife is expecting a baby any minute now and we need a place to stay. Could you help us?”
Then Jenny had the innkeeper respond: “Well, as you see, we are quite crowded. But, there’s always room for one more. Please do come in.” Pleased with herself, Jenny closed the Bible, laid it down, and confidently asked her family, “Now, isn’t that better?”
It’s charming to think of a child’s revision of the old story in ways that make it neater, kinder, fairer and, in her view, better. There is something about that impulse to change whatever we can for the better that Christmas seems to draw out of many of us, isn’t there? While we cannot literally change the Christmas story, of course, we hope its poignancy, its innocence, and its wonder may be a stimulus for us all this year. Perhaps this amazing story will help us to take note of injustice, unfairness or unkindness wherever we encounter them, and consider how we might “make it better.”
Perhaps the Christmas story will also inspire us to change our own life stories. Are there places in need of revision in your life? Perhaps a relationship with a co-worker or a friend needs repair. Maybe an old quarrel could be mended, or an old grudge laid to rest. It could be that family stresses and misunderstandings could be ironed out. Or maybe you know of another’s need and have a way to help meet it. Sometimes reviewing our own stories, with an eye to the Christmas story, helps us to see where lives could, in fact, be made better.
After all God, the Author of all of our lives, seems to have looked at the world’s story with a critical but loving eye, and decided that it could it improved. And sending a tiny, helpless child to be born in Bethlehem was just the spark to begin the needed improvement. We hope you will thoughtfully reflect upon all this during this wondrous season which has so much to tell us and teach us. We hope you will look anew at the old, old Nativity story, and considering how it has impacted your own story, say with gratitude for the Christ child’s birth – “Now, isn’t that better?”