“From now on I promise we will only stay in five-star hotels.”
When I was teaching grade five at an international school in Hong Kong in 2004 many of my students were from fairly affluent families, for whom regular international travel was common place and routine. The children in my class were used to quite a privileged lifestyle. After one of my holidays in mainland China I told the kids the name of the hotel where I’d stayed, “Oh Mrs. Driedger”, one girl said in dismay. “That’s only a three star hotel. My family never stays in anything less than a five-star hotel.”
The school I taught in was faith-based and as a December project in our Bible class I divided the students into groups and asked them to write and perform their own nativity plays. One of the writing and acting troops did an amazing job.
They had made laminated identity cards for Mary and Joseph. In Hong Kong citizens must carry an identity card with their photo and fingerprints on it. The kids naturally assumed that the holy couple would need similar identification.
I laughed during the scene where Joseph in a business suit and tie was watching the evening news on a television set made from a cardboard box. The maid came in to tell Joseph it was suppertime and he said “SHHHHHH” to her, adding brusquely “I’m watching the news.” Joseph used his remote control to turn up the volume. A boy playing the role of Caesar Augustus was inside the box announcing the census that required everyone to return to his or her hometown.
Mary and Joseph packed their designer luggage and set off for Bethlehem. My enterprising jet setting students had also created passports for Mary and Joseph. In their search for Bethlehem Jesus’ parents landed mistakenly in many of the major cities of the world. Mary and Joseph would approach a table to speak to a custom’s official sporting a flag on his uniform. “Are we in Bethlehem?” Joseph would ask handing over their passports. “No” the official would report pointing to his flag, “You are in France”.
Mary and Joseph would leave with their luggage. They would spend a few minutes sitting on two chairs that represented airplane seats, and then return to the table where the customs’ official awaited them, now wearing a new flag on his uniform. He’d reply to their query about Bethlehem with “No! You are in Thailand” or “No! You are in Singapore” or “No! You are in Italy.” This went on until at last Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem where unfortunately all the hotels were full.
They land up in a stable and Mary and Joseph go to sleep. Lo and behold when they wake up baby Jesus is lying between them. Joseph is quite excited but Mary, not doubt a tad irritable after a night of giving birth, begins to complain about the prickly hay, the smelly barn, the noisy animals and the cold air. Joseph, who is holding baby Jesus, puts his arm around his wife and ends the play with a line I’ll never forget. “I’m sorry Mary”, he says seriously and apologetically, “From now on I promise our family will only stay in five-star hotels.”
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