I’m certain that you, like me, have your favorite Christmas stories. One of mine is The Littlest Angel; my favorite one however, is a true one told by my mother of when she was a little girl and learned that there really is a Santa Claus and his other name is love. If any one is interested in reading it again, it can be found on any of my blog pages under the category of Christmas.
The sweet story below is another favorite of mine and in it’s heart warming content is a message for each of us.
For many years now, whenever Christmas pageants are talked about in a certain little town in the Mid-west, someone is sure to mention the name of Wallace Purling. Wally’s performance in one annual production of the nativity play has slipped into the realm of legend. But the old-timers who were in the audience that night never tire of recalling exactly what happened.
Wally was nine that year and in the second grade, though he should have been in the fourth. Most people in town knew he had trouble in keeping up. He was big and clumsy, slow in movement and mind. Still, Wally was well liked by the other children in his class, all of whom were smaller than he, though the boys had trouble hiding their irritation when Wally would ask to play ball with them, or any game, for that matter, in which winning was important.
Most often they’d find a way to keep him out, but Wally would hang around anyway–not sulking, just hoping. He was always a helpful boy, a willing and smiling one, and the natural protector of the underdog. Sometimes if the older boys chased the younger ones away, it would always be Wally who’d say, “Can’t they stay? They’re no bother.”
Wally fancied the idea of being a shepherd with a flute in the Christmas pageant that year, but the play’s director, Miss Lumbard, assigned him to a more important role. After all, she reasoned, the Innkeeper did not have too many lines and Wally’s size would make his refusal of lodging to Joseph more forceful.
And so it happened that the usual large, partisan audience gathered for the town’s yearly extravaganza of beards, crowns, halos and a whole stage full of squeaky voices. No one on or off stage was more caught up in the magic of the night than Wallace Purling. They said later that he stood in the wings and watched the performance with such fascination that from time to time Miss Lumbard had to make sure he didn’t wander on stage before his cue.
Then the time came when Joseph appeared, slowly, tenderly guiding Mary to the door of the inn. Joseph knocked hard on the wooden door set into the painted backdrop. Wally the innkeeper was there, waiting.
“What do you want?” Wally said, swinging the door open with a brusque gesture.
“We seek lodging.”
“Seek it elsewhere, the inn is filled,” said Wally vigorously as he looked straight ahead.
“Sir, we have asked everywhere in vain. We have traveled far and are very weary.”
“There is no room in this inn for you.” Wally looked properly stern.
“Please, good innkeeper, this is my wife Mary. She is heavy with child and needs a place to rest. Surely you must have some small corner for her. She is so tired.”
Now, for the first time, the innkeeper relaxed his still stance and looked down at Mary. With that, there was a long pause, long enough to make the audience a bit tense with embarrassment.
“No! Begone!” The prompter whispered from the wings.
“No! Begone! ” Wally repeated automatically.
Joseph sadly placed his arm around Mary and Mary laid her head upon her husband’s shoulder and the two of them started to move away. The innkeeper did not return inside his inn however. Wally stood there in the doorway, watching the forlorn couple. His mouth was open, his brow creased with concern, his eyes filling unmistakably with tears.
And suddenly this Christmas pageant became different from all the others.
“Don’t go, Joseph,” Wally called out. “Bring Mary back.” And suddenly Wallace Purling’s face grew into a bright smile. “You can have my room.”
Some people in town thought that the pageant had been ruined. Yet there were others–many, many others–who considered it the most Christmas of all Christmas pageants they had ever seen.
We each have the opportunity, just like Wally did, to make room in the inn. Not only at Christmas, but every day of the year. I hope we will all be a little bit like Wallace Purling and open our hears to what is truly important. Merry Christmas.