Water, blankets, and feed, Amal repeated to himself. The inn was bursting with everyone from the Census. His father, Benaiah, ran the inn. Everyone had to help, and Amal was told to take care of all of the animals. The stable was crowded, with everyone’s camels, donkeys, and horses, too many animals for the space they had. Amal walked over to the storage room, careful not disturb anyone. He wove his way around the inn, over the people that were sleeping on the stairs, for a lack of somewhere to stay.
Amal heard a frantic knock on the door, and his father was busy tending to a sick traveler. Dinah, his little sister had fallen asleep, so Amal was left to answer the door. There was a bearded man, standing in front of a pregnant woman on a donkey, a star shining brighter than the moonlight, just above them. That star... thought Amal, it is much brighter than the nights before... The man's eager voice snapped Amal out of his thoughts. “My wife is about to have a baby,” the man said, “do you have room for us? The Census has made everyone fill the inns.”
“I’m sorry sir, we have no room, people are sleeping on the floor because there is nowhere else to stay.
"Thank you,” the man said, looking weary and defeated.
Just as Amal closed the door, his father rushed up.
“Amal, who was that?”
“A man asked for a place to stay,” Amal said, “His wife was about to have a baby.”
“Did you tell them they could stay here?” his father asked worriedly, a crease in his thick brows. Amal looked down at his sandals.
“No,” he said shamefully, his face growing hot.
“Amal!” his father sounded agitated. “ Go find them and tell them they can stay here!”
“There is no room, father!” Amal argued.
“Yes…” Benaiah agreed, “They need to stay somewhere…”
“Where?” Amal asked.
“ In… the stable!” his father said.
“The stable?” Amal asked, “They cannot stay there! The stable is full of smelly animals, and 一”
Benaiah pushed Amal out the door. “Go find them,” Benaiah said as he closed the door.
Amal didn’t see them anywhere. The hard, dirty streets were a river, constantly overflowing with census travelers.
There could be a hundred people that need help, Thought Amal, why do we need to help this one man and not the others? Everyone looked the same, with the same dirty cotton mitpahaths, and neckcloths, and the same fatigued expression. He brushed his dark, curly hair out of his eyes, and continued pushing his way through the crowd, trying to find the woman on the donkey. He had found one woman on a donkey, but she was much too old to be carrying a baby. Amal realized that there was no way to pick the couple out in this overwhelming crowd. He started to knock on doors asking for them. Almost every innkeeper had seen them, but none knew where they were. Amal had spent hours searching for the man and the woman on the donkey but had no luck. He felt guilty inside, though he did not know why. He kicked the dirt in frustration, and covered his face, hoping no one could sense what he did wrong. He knew there was something special about them, he knew when his father had scolded him. Amal ran into a narrow corridor between two houses, and he let his emotions take him away, far away from his father's disappointment. He slumped down, burying his face into his hands, resting his head on the cold, wooden side of the building. Tears pricked his eyes, Amal knew he had let his father down. Just as Amal started to regain his confidence to walk home, a man placed a gentle hand on his shoulder. Amal looked up to see a man and a woman looking down on him, with kind eyes. The woman offered a sympathetic smile and the man helped him get up on his feet. Amal suddenly realized this was the couple he was searching for! He got very excited, pulling the man's arm towards Amal's father's inn. "You!" said Amal excitedly, "you are the- the man that asked for a place to stay!"
"We asked every inn for a place to stay," the man said, with a confused look on his face.
"Come with me!" Amal shouted excitedly, pulling the man's arm. "I knew it was you when I saw you! I knew, I knew, I knew! father will be so happy! I haven't even asked your name, I am sorry...?"
"Joseph" the man replied, with a confused smile on his face.
"Joseph-" his wife said in a strained voice, "Joseph, we need to go. Now!" Joseph rushed to her side and touched her rounded stomach gently.
"Yes, Mary, we will follow this boy to his father's inn." Joseph gently helped Mary onto their donkey. They soon arrived at the inn, where they met Benaiah. Benaiah helped carry Mary to the stable, while Amal tethered their donkey to a beam inside the stable.
"Amal," called Benaiah, "Run and get a clean towel and a bundle of fresh straw, Hurry!"
When Amal returned with the items, Mary and Joseph were huddled next to each other, cradling a baby. Amal peered around the side of the stall he was standing in and saw that Joseph had spotted him. Joseph waved him over, and Amal cautiously walked towards the baby.
" Come, sit." Mary said.
Mary placed the baby in Amal's arms. The baby smiled up at Amal, filling him with inexplicable, warm joy, and overcoming him with a wave of peace that he had never felt before.
"What is his name?" Amal asked quietly.
"Jesus," Mary replied tenderly.
Amal pulled the baby closer to his body, cradling him ever so gently.
" Baby Jesus" Amal whispered, under his breath, his voice full of awe and tenderness.
I wrote this essay three times over, and couldn't find the right words to show the importance and joy that Christmas gives me. After thinking this through for a while, I resolved that describing my own past Christmas experiences wouldn't spread the feeling of joy and hope that I wanted to share. The only way to show the way I feel about Christmas is to go back to the very first Christmas, from the perspective of a character that I have created, Amal.