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It was the biggest night of the year in a little town called Cornwall. It was the night of the annual Christmas pageant. Since there are no nearby malls or cities to compete with, the pageant is packed out every year. It's an especially big deal for the children in town. They get to try out for the roles in the Christmas story, and everybody wants a part.
Which leads us to the problem of Harold. Harold really wanted to be in the play, too, but he was ... well, he was kind of a slow and simple kid. The directors were ambivalent, I mean, they knew Harold would be crushed if he didn't have a part, but they were afraid he might mess up the town's magic moment. Finally, they decided to cast Harold as the innkeeper - the one who turns Mary and Joseph away the night Jesus is to be born. He only had only one line: "I'm sorry, we have no room." Well, no one could imagine what that one line was going to do to everyone's Christmas.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A WORD WITH YOU today about "The Christmas Invitation."
The night of the pageant the church was packed, as usual. The set was in place, and in fact, it was an entire wall with scenes of Bethlehem painted on it, including the door of the inn where Harold would greet and then turn away the young Jewish travelers.
Backstage, the angels were playing frisbee with their halos, the shepherds were waiting 'till the last minute to put on their annually laundered bathrobes, and Harold was being personally coached by the nervous directors. "Now remember, Harold, when Joseph says, 'Do you have a room for the night?' you say ... you say ..." Hesitantly, Harold said, "I'm sorry. We have no room." The directors looked at each other sort of hopefully. They'd done all they could.
Well, the Christmas story unfolded according to plan - angels singing, Joseph's dream, you know, the trip to Bethlehem. Finally, Joseph and Mary arrived at the door of the Bethlehem Inn, looking appropriately tired, discussing whether the baby might come tonight. Joseph knocked on the inn door. Backstage, the directors were just out of sight, coaching Harold to open the door now. And wouldn't you know it - the door was stuck! The whole set shook; Harold tried to get that door open. When he finally did, Joseph asked his question on cue: "Do you have a room for the night?"
Harold froze. From backstage, a loud whisper: "I'm sorry. We have no room." And Harold mumbled, "I'm sorry. We have no room." And, with a little coaching, he shut the door. Well, the directors heaved a sigh of relief - prematurely. As Mary and Joseph disappeared into the night, the set suddenly started shaking again, and the door opened. Harold was back! And then, in an unrehearsed moment that folks would not soon forget, Harold went running after the young couple, shouting as loud as he could, "Wait! Wait! You can have my room!"
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