Well, that’s the last room, Rachael. We’re full up," Jake sighed.
"We always are at tax collection time, Jake," Rachael said.
"I’m glad we moved here. I know you were worried about makin’ a livin’ in a little podunk town, as some would say, but it’s gonna work, we’ve just got to have faith."
"Is that the door?"
"I’ll get it."
Jake opened the door of his little inn to a man standing in the entranceway. In the moonlight he could see a woman leaning on a burro behind the man.
"Would you have a place to stay?" the man asked. "We’ve been on the road since Wednesday from Nazareth, my wife is exhausted."
Jake looked them over. They looked worn out, alright. The woman looked pregnant.
"Gosh," said Jake, "We just let out our last room 10 minutes ago to a family from Samaria. I’m sorry."
"Could you recommend some place?" asked the man.
"The only other inn belongs to Mr. Saul," explained Jake, "But he usually is filled up with officials from the city and other tax collectors."
"I’m in a bit of a crunch here," said the man with a hint of desperation in his voice, "My wife is having contractions. Is there any place I could get her off the street? Maybe a toolshed or a pumphouse?"
Jacob felt awful.
"Well, there’s a little barn behind us here. It’s not big, but it’s out of the wind. Do you have any bedding?"
"That would be very generous of you, sir. I promise we won’t disturb the animals. Is there, by any chance, a midwife nearby?"
"Everything alright, Jake?" asked Rachael.
"Yeah, these young folks are lookin’ for a room for the night, but I told them we’re full up. Could we let them spend the night in the stable?"
"With the animals!" she said, "Jacob, is the girl pregnant?"
"Yes, ma’am," said the traveler. "She’s havin’ pains now."
"Jacob," said Rachael, "They can have our room. We’ll sleep on the couch!"
Then to the stranger, "Come in … please, we’ll fix you up. Jacob, put their burro in the stable. What’s yer name, Darlin’? Mary. Okay, c’mon Mary, let’s get you comfortable."
Later that night as Jacob and Rachael snuggled on the couch, he said, "That was the right thing to do. I just didn’t think of it."
"That’s why we’re a team, Jake. I just couldn’t imagine giving birth in the stable. I mean, where would she have laid the baby? In the manger?"
Baxter Black is a former large animal veterinarian who can be followed nationwide through this column, National Public Radio, public appearances, television and also through his books, cds, videos and website, www.baxterblack.com.