…The Nativity

“It’s not fair!”

“It’s not fair!” rants the boy.

“But it’s the best part!” I try to reassure.

“It’s not. It’s boring. I wanted to be the donkey!”

“But your part is better.”

“The donkey has a song.”

Yes, that’s right. This week they have been casting the school nativity and the boy doesn’t feel his talent has been recognised. You know the score. Pretty kids: you can be angels. The three tallest? Here’s your gold, frankincense and myrrh. Scruffy kids – oxen. Everyone else – get those tea towels on your heads and get to watching those flocks by night.

But I overlook the star of the Christmas story. The part which, without any trace of bias, I am proud to say my son has been cast as. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you… Innkeeper Number Three!


You don’t believe Innkeeper Number Three is the star of the Christmas story? Come back two thousand years with me and I’ll show you.

Firstly let’s rule out inanimate objects. Stars are celestial masses of hydrogen and helium that “produce light and heat from the churning nuclear forges inside their cores” (ref. National Geographic Kids). If you were a mass of hydrogen and helium with a churning nuclear forge the very least I’d expect you to do is twinkle. No. The stars are out.

Livestock – that’s out too. In verse two of “Away In A Manger” the cattle are lowing, yes. The sheep have very much a passive role, being watched by night. The donkey, song or no song, is a beast of burden and a means of transport. Nowadays a carpenter would have a white van to travel and transport stuff. But correct me if I’m wrong (though I’m not) but cows moo, sheep are shepherded and donkeys carry stuff (or maybe sing) year round, Christmas or no Christmas.

The Shepherds have a pretty good reputation but after being scared witless on a hillside by a host of angels their motivation thereafter is pure and simple fear – they were sore afraid. Sorry Shepherds – you’re fired.

The Three Wise Men are only there because they believed their horoscopes. Even if they were at the right place (I’ll remind you their main contribution to the story, beyond inappropriate baby shower presents , was to tip off Herod on the way – a total Scrooge if ever there was one) it was just because they read the astrology column. Think Russell Grant on a camel, triple it, and try not to have nightmares. No, no and no.

Have I missed anyone?

Mary and Joesph?

Plumb parts you’d have thought.

But Mary is a first time mum, forty weeks pregnant and has just done a bouncy ninety mile trip on the back of a donkey. I don’t know that she has much say in what happens next.

Even Jesus is little more than a bit part player and a plastic doll in most nativity plays.

And Joseph? Well, despite the potential for playing up the tragic romantic backstory of a struggling working dad never quite managing to live up to the image of his wife’s ex and the father of her child, rather like The Great Gatsby, Joseph is to all intents and purposes in Bethlehem to file his tax return. I submit my tax return in December. It hardly makes me the step-dad of the son of God.

So what of Innkeeper Number Three I hear you ask.

Well this is a man, run off his feet, fully booked for the Christmas rush. A couple from far away clearly in great need have tried Innkeeper Numbers One and Two and clearly got nowhere.

Innkeeper Number Three is the only one in this story who shows any empathy and compassion. The only one who opens his heart and his door and shows kindness to strangers. He’s the only one who goes above and beyond fear, self-motivation or just doing their job and, dare I say it, shows a little Christmas Spirit.

So this year, when you’re busy and stressed and you feel you may be lacking in Joy to the World and Peace and Goodwill to All Men, let me encourage you.

Go on – be a bit more Innkeeper Number Three.

Even if the donkey has a song!

2 thoughts on “…The Nativity

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