Esther put one last plate into the greasy water. The meal she fed the travelers was hearty fare, nothing fancy. In a city crowded for the census, they should be thankful they found a place to sleep and something to eat. And why did Eli feel the need to fill every nook and cranny with people? Why, he even put a young couple in the stable with the animals. Just like him. He’s generous to the point of foolishness.
Eli walked into the kitchen as Esther put away the last of the dishes. “Es, can you make one more plate? I told a man he could sleep in the courtyard, and he has nothing to eat.”
“If you were doing the kitchen work, old man, you wouldn’t be so eager to invite one more…and one more to the table.” Grumbling to herself, she filled the plate with food and shoved it at Eli.
“Es, I don’t mean to burden you, but these people are tired and hungry. They didn’t ask to come here. But no one in his right mind would defy the governor’s edict. And, I have one more favor to ask. The young couple in the stable—I’m sure they’re hungry. The woman looked like she would deliver any moment. She’s so young. She probably needs to talk to another woman, being so far from her mother and all. Do you think you could see your way to take them some food and a blanket? You know, just look in on them to be sure everything’s okay.
Esther scowled at Eli and turned away. He left with the plate as she prepared a basket. When it was ready, she headed outside. Hopefully, this is the last job Eli will give me tonight. I’ve done enough.
The bright night sky illuminated the strangers standing around the stable door. It was too quiet. Annoyed by the pungent smell of the men, she pushed past them.
Esther was too late to help with the delivery. The young woman lay on straw with the child in her arms. As Esther stood there she felt peace flow over her unlike anything she’d ever known. She knelt beside the young mother. “Are you okay? I brought you a blanket and some food. What else can I bring you?”
“Thank you so much. You brought exactly what I need. Would you like to hold him?”
Esther took the babe in her arms. In that moment, with his warmth against her bosom, she felt joy and peace and love fill her. What child is this? What is happening? She leaned down and kissed his soft hair as she handed him back to his mother. “I must tell Eli. He’ll want to see the child.”
She ran to the house. “Eli, come quickly. There’s a baby. You must see.” They hurried to the stable.
As they stood watching the child and his mother, Esther slipped her arm around Eli’s waist. Startled, he looked at his wife, “What’s come over you?”
“It’s the baby, Eli. It’s him. Don’t you feel it? Don’t you feel the difference?”
My prayer this day: May the Christ Child make all the difference for you this Christmas and in the year to come.