“Merry Christmas, Clyde.” I called out as I came through the door. Then I stopped and paused.
“Where are the decorations, the lights, the holly and runnin’ cedar? The mistletoe? Why, you don’t even have a tree up yet.”
“It’s been tough this year, Bunkie. Oh, I can afford all that stuff, just hain’t really felt like it’sall.
“Sometimes I think God’s too busy to be concerned about me. I know that’s a horrible thing to say, but it’s how I feel right now.”
“Rita, bring us both a cup of coffee. Fortified, if you please, while I tell Clyde a story.”
A few weeks ago the Williams sisters had gifted Clyde with a jar of ‘the recipe’ which he kept hidden under the bar. After looking around to see who was in the place, he directed her to it as she poured the coffee.
With a fresh cup of fortified coffee in front of each of us, I began the story:
“Clyde, I know just how you feel. We’ve all been there. The Williams Sisters’ father was a hero of mine when I was growing through those tough teen years. This helped me then; I hope it helps you now.
“When Jesus was born the people all knew a ‘King’ was coming soon, as Daniel had prophesied 500 years earlier. But where would he be born?
“A palace of course. Where else would a king be born? Especially a king descending from the house of David.”
“Arthur, the sisters’ father, took me into his barn.
“Ahh, breathe in those smells, Bunkie. Jesus was born in a place much like this. Betsy the cow and Rhody the mule shuffled in their stalls.
“It’s a smell you can’t forget, Clyde. And this was a well-kept barn.
“Now imagine two thousand years ago, in late Summer. In the desert. In a barn full of traveler’s mules, donkeys, and even a horse or two. And the only permanent occupant, the inn’s milk goat.
“Bethlehem was overrun with visitors, coming into town to pay their taxes as the Romans had decreed.
“Mary and Joseph could have been more comfortable sleeping outdoors, but she was ‘great with child’ as the Bible says, so they required a certain amount of privacy. Since there were no rooms available at the inn, this was all the innkeeper could provide.
“A barn, without even a platform to sleep on. A barn filled to overflowing with traveler’s animals. I’m sure the innkeeper was too busy with his guests to pay proper attention to his barn so the smell must have been atrocious. Not to mention the flies and biting gnats.
“Joseph did the best he could with what he had I imagine.
“After the Baby was born, (considering the circumstances a miracle in itself), his first breath was full of barn smells.
“Joseph prepared a crib with all that was at hand, a feeding trough filled with the cleanest hay he could find. Mary wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in the manger Joseph had prepared.
“Jesus’ first breaths were of unclean, putrid air, and His bed was dirty and germ-laden. The accommodations for the birth of the King of Kings left much to be desired.
“There is a lesson for me in the story of my Savior’s birth; perhaps there is one here for you also, Clyde.
“For most of my adult life I have been a Christian. Often I have been in situations I thought needed improvement. I have thought, “God, you could make things better for me, if you wanted to.”
“At times I have found myself in very trying situations and have thought, “I am a Christian, attempting to do God’s will, and this is how He treats me!” Like you, I have become angry and said, “God, you aren’t treating me as I deserve!”
Clyde drained his coffee cup and looked off into the distance in the mirror behind the bar.
He turned back to me and said, “As I think about the story you just told, I realize that God has treated me better than He treated His own Son since the very beginning of my life!”