Dinner at the Inn

This year I have one goal: make Christmas happen. Not the decorating or the Santa part, but the Christmas part.

I was walking through Hobby Lobby with my sister Kerry earlier this season and was astonished at the aisles and aisles of Christmas themed decor. Floor to ceiling, it was stocked with every whimsical, elvical, Santa happy button and bow imaginable.

By aisle five it was clear that while Santa and winter were both well represented, any religious themed artifacts of any kind were obviously out of style. We finally found one end cap with a sparse collection of nativity decorations.

One end cap.

Here they are monopolizing on a holiday that is built around the birth of Jesus Christ (or for some Hanukkah), an event where we actually give gifts traditionally in His memory, and they have no problem cutting Him out of the equation?

This makes me miss Germany, those Germans total get it. Santa’s gone by December 6th and after that it’s all wise men and camels and sheep with Baby Jesus at the end.

On Sunday night we had our Bedouin dinner which we have renamed A Night at the Inn. We did this last year with some dear friends and it was amazing.

This year we decided to do it a little differently. Jason and I spent a fair amount of time building the world’s largest pillow fort, tenting the ceiling with about 70 yards of fabric. We brought down the old Turkish rug from the play room, removed the furniture and replaced it with well-loved throw pillows.

IMG_3112 IMG_3113 IMG_3114 IMG_3120 IMG_3122

Our meal was strictly middle-eastern, we had chicken tagine (killer) with a Basmati curry rice and my friend made delicious homemade felafels. Fruit, cheese, flat bread–good food.

But the real motivation for this meal isn’t the menu, it’s about helping the kids understand just how crowded the Inn was that night in Bethlehem, how stressed the innkeeper was with so many families piling into town for the census.

When our friends arrived they were asked by the innkeeper’s son (who insisted on answering the door), “Do you have a reservation?” We’d given them a scroll (which I burned twice in the oven trying to make it look 2000 years old) and they proved their place and were invited in.

The room was small and there were plenty of people fighting over pillows when I started the story of the shepherds. It’s the one time I don’t mind Vegas; the weather is similar to a winter in Israel and they can really understand the dry, rocky climate.

Then we talked about the innkeeper. Imagine how stressed he was, maybe some of the families staying with him had ten kids, imagine ten kids having to sleep in one room with their parents. They listened and chewed on their grapes and naan, thinking about that night and that inn.

What if you were the innkeeper? What would you have done? Would we have told Mary and Joseph sorry, we’re too full? Not enough food left? Too many people already? Would we have turned them away?

And that’s when there was a knock at the door.

The innkeeper himself opened it this time and there on step stood two weary travelers, one of them very pregnant and both looking hungry and tired.

“Do you have a reservation?” he asked.

“No, but we have been traveling for days and we’re so tired, is there any room?” the man replied. The room was silent behind him, everyone holding their breath.

Jason looked back at the gawking crowd. “I’m so sorry, we’re very full tonight and there’s hardly any place to sit–”

And then the innocent chorus erupted, “Let them in! There’s room! Is that Mary? Is she gonna have a baby tonight?? She can sit by me!”

It was amazing. They came in and sat on the floor with the children and the little kids asked them questions about their journey and their donkey and the angel (which they answered on the fly and totally rocked). Georgia was literally shaking with excitement she was so thrilled and so amazed.

I loved this night. Our years of pulling off this kind of wonderment are numbered, my kids are growing up so fast and like believing in Santa, passing off Mary and Joseph won’t always have that effect.

But unlike Santa Clause this story is real.

Neal A. Maxwell said, “Each of us is an Innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus.” Will you be tracking Santa tonight or the wise men? Will you make room in your holiday tradition for the Christ child? Do your kids put more stock in the elf than shepherds? This is the night to celebrate the baby. He came, He lives, He loves us.

Santa, move over. Jesus is back in town.