When asked, “Where is Alexandria, Indiana?” we usually reply: “Right in the middle of the cornfields.” Like most Midwestern young people, the kids in Alexandria have parents who grew up on working farms; though not so many farms are active as they once were, most county and small-town kids still belong to 4-H, where such skills are taught as sewing, canning, baking, woodworking, model-building and raising farm animals.
Alexandria is a good place to live because of solid farm families, who would still set an extra place at the table if you happen in at suppertime, pull your car out of a snowdrift with their tractor, or water or feed your dog while you are on vacation. A few of the country places around small towns like ours have turned the extra space in their big houses into Bed and Breakfast Inns since the kids are grown and gone.
It isn’t hard for Bill and me to imagine an innkeeper, in a town too small for big hotels, taking in extra people. It isn’t hard to imagine how bad the farmer and his wife must have felt when, in spite of their “no vacancy” sign, a tired man and an about-to-deliver pregnant girl knocked at the door.
“Every bed — the house is full,” he must have said before he noticed the grimace on the face of the young woman. “Why, Joe,” his wife must have said, “that girl’s in labor — we can’t let that baby be born in the street.”
“Here. Tell you what we’ll do,” the farmer offers. “Come on around to the stable. There’s new straw to throw down, and we’ll make a place where you’ll have some privacy. Maude, here, will bring you some hot water and linens. They’re worn, but they’re clean. You can tie your donkey under the overhang.”
Because of that one little clause in Luke’s Gospel, “because there was no room for them in the inn,” these innkeepers have sometimes gotten a bad rap. But knowing farmers as we do, I think these people went out of their way to give this couple the only other shelter they had.
Can you imagine their surprise as the night wore on? Stars stopping over their stable, shepherds making a ruckus about angels singing on the hillside, and then, strangers inquiring about the newborn for weeks afterward. These country folk must have had quite a story to share that night and the next few weeks at the Farm Bureau meetings.
All too often, we turn the characters in this real-life drama into celebrities or deities. There was only one deity there that night. The rest were ordinary people experiencing an extraordinary happening. But at the time, they all did the best they could with what they had: some swaddling clothes Mary had no doubt brought with her; a feeding trough turned baby cradle; a rough cloak or two; some clean straw and a stable made warm enough for a newborn by the body heat of some farm animals.
The rest is history … and prophecy.
"Come and See What's Happenin'"
Come and see what’s happenin’ in the barn!
I’ve seen nothin’ like this since I’ve been on this farm!
Those strangers that camped out there have a baby in their arms
Come and see what’s happenin’ in the barn!
Must have been sometime ‘bout close to midnight
A big ole’ guy came knockin’ at my door
He said his wife was ‘bout to have a baby
And she just couldn’t travel anymore.
I said the rooms had all been rented out
But they’d find shelter out there in the barn
They could throw some blankets in the stable;
At least, they would be dry and safe from harm.
Sometime before dawn I was awakened
Light was floodin’ through the windowpane
A star as bright as moonlight was a shinin’
And pretty music I could not explain
I ran downstairs to have a look around
I tell you I could not believe my eyes
A crowd had gathered all around the manger
And they were talkin’ ‘bout God’s big surprise.
The shepherds said that they’d been on the hillside
Tellin’ stories just to stay awake;
The baby lambs were sleepin’ near the campfire,
The ewes were huddled by the stone fence gate.
And then the sky just seemed to open wide
With light and sound that they could hardly bear
And what they swore were angels sang in chorus,
“You’ll find the new Messiah over there.”
“Go and see what’s happening in the barn”
There’s been nothin’ like it ever happened on this farm!
The strangers that camped out there have a baby in their arms.
Go and see what’s happenin’ in the barn!
Lyric © 2000 Gloria Gaither. Used by permission.
© 2003 Homecoming Magazine. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Click here to subscribe.