“Room at the Inn”

By Lynette K. Allen

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    I was a stranger and ye took me in (Matt. 25:35).

    The Sunday before Christmas I woke up to the sounds of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. That’s how Mom gets us up on Sundays. From then on, the day went downhill. To begin with, my hairbrush was missing. I suspected my three-year-old brother, Jeffy, had taken it, and sure enough, I found it in his toy box. “Mom,” I complained, “I’m getting sick and tired of this little shrimp getting into my things!”

    Mom was busy giving the baby a bath, and she acted as if she hadn’t even heard me. “Amy,” she said, “we’re going to need to change our plans for tonight’s family Christmas program. Daddy just called from church, and that new family, the Hansens, are still living in a motel. He’d like to invite them for dinner and to spend the evening with us. There’s nothing less like the Sabbath than the Silver Moon Motel.”

    “But Mom, you can’t do that!” I wailed. “You know I’ve planned this for two months, and it’s just for our family. All the parts are taken.

    “Besides,” I went on, getting louder and louder, “they have a bunch of little shrimps who’d probably tear the whole house apart.” Then I started to cry.

    Mother wrapped the baby in a towel and turned to face me. “Amy, I had no idea that it meant this much to you. Please don’t be so upset. I’ll just tell Dad when we get to church, and he can tell the Hansens that it won’t work out.”

    All during sacrament meeting I watched the three Hansen kids—two-, three-, and four-year-old boys—climbing all over the benches and squirming across their parents’ laps. Brother and Sister Hansen looked pretty tired by the time they’d taken each boy out about five times. It’s just as well, I thought to myself, I can’t even imagine what four little boys would do to my bedroom!

    I felt relieved all the way to Primary. On the way down the hall, I noticed that it had started snowing outside. It was going to be a perfect family night.

    When I got to class, Sister Martin, my Merrie Miss teacher, wanted to know what we thought it might have been like to be strangers in a strange town, like Mary and Joseph were when they went to Bethlehem. All of us had an answer to that question. Even Mandi Perkins, who hardly ever says anything, said, “I bet they felt lonely.”

    Then Sister Martin asked us why we thought the innkeeper hadn’t let this poor, lonely couple stay at his house. We really had to think about that for a while. The innkeeper had always been one of the side characters in the Christmas story. But I’d never thought about him having feelings.

    “Well,” I suggested, “he probably felt busy with all his other company.”

    Jenny Peterson thought the innkeeper might have been thinking that this couple, who were soon going to have a baby, would be too much trouble. That’s when I started to feel a little uncomfortable.

    “He probably had things planned the way he wanted them, and here came some people to mess up his plans,” my best friend, Rachel, added. Suddenly this wasn’t a Christmas story that happened two thousand years ago. This was something that was happening today.

    Mandi Perkins added the final blow—“The innkeeper missed the whole thing, didn’t he? The two most important guests in the world came to his place, and he wouldn’t let them in.”

    “Do you suppose, girls,” said Sister Martin, “that we ever act like the innkeeper? That maybe we become a little selfish and miss helping someone? Look with me in your Bibles at Matthew 25:40 [Matt. 25:40]: ‘And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.’”

    By that time my eyes were so filled with tears that the words seemed to be swimming across the page. Here were the Hansens without a place to live, and I was acting like the innkeeper, not wanting them to bother me. I knew how I would act if the Hansens were Mary and Joseph and the Baby Jesus, and I knew that Heavenly Father would want me to treat them the same way.

    Luckily Sister Martin didn’t ask me to give the prayer, because I was having a hard time swallowing. Afterward I hurried out of the room as quickly as I could and headed down the hall to where I saw my parents. I heard my dad saying to the Hansens, “We’re awfully sorry, but our daughter—”

    I didn’t even think. I rushed up and blurted out, “There’s room at the inn!” and then I blushed deep red.

    Dad saw my red eyes and must have guessed what had happened, because he just continued: “As I was saying,”—he put his arm around me—“our daughter has planned a very special Christmas program for tonight, and I think she wants to warn you that you’ll be having a part in it!”

    Illustrated by Taia Morley