Winning Ways - from Hillcrest Baptist Church, Austin, Texas  Contact Tom Goodman, Pastor
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Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room
by Tom Goodman
December 23, 2009

Christmas Eve Service
December 24 @ 6:00 p.m.

And... on Sunday, December 27,
former Hillcrest pastor Dr. Ed Wright will be preaching in our 10am service.

Wallace Purling was nine that year, and only in second grade.

Most people in town knew that he had difficulty keeping up.  He was big and clumsy, slow in movement and mind.  Still, Wally was well-liked by the other children in his class, though the boys had trouble hiding their irritation when Wally asked to play ball with them.

Most often, they'd find a way to keep him out, but Wally would hang around anyway, just hoping.  He was a helpful boy, willing and smiling, and the natural protector of the underdog.  When the older boys chased the younger ones away, it was always Wally who said, "Can't they stay?  They're no bother."

Wally fancied the idea of being a shepherd with a flute in the Christmas pageant that year, but the play's director assigned him a more important role.  The innkeeper did not have many lines, and Wally's size would make his refusal of lodging to Joseph more forceful.

The usual large audience gathered for the town's yearly extravaganza.  Wallace Purling stood in the wings, watching with fascination.

Then Joseph appeared -- slowly, tenderly guiding Mary -- and knocked hard on the wooden door set into the painted back drop.

"What do you want?" Wally the innkeeper said brusquely, swinging the door open.

"We seek lodging," Joseph answered.

"Seek it elsewhere," Wally looked straight ahead but spoke vigorously.  "The inn is filled."

"Sir, we have asked everywhere in vain.  We have traveled far and are weary."

"There is no room in this inn for you," Wally looked properly stern.

"Please, good Innkeeper, this is my wife, Mary.  She is heavy with child.  Surely you must have some small corner for her to rest."

Now, for the first time, the innkeeper looked down at Mary.  There was a long pause, long enough to make the audience tense with embarrassment.

"No!  Begone!" the prompter whispered from the wings.

"No!" Wally repeated.  "Begone!"

Joseph sadly placed his arm around Mary.  Mary laid her head upon her husband's shoulder, and the two of them started to move away.  Wally stood in the doorway, watching the forlorn couple.  His mouth was open, his brow creased with concern, his eyes filling unmistakably with tears.

And suddenly this Christmas pageant became different from all others.

"Don't go, Joseph," Wally called out.  "Bring Mary back."  Wallace Purling broke into a bright smile.  "You can have my room."

A few people thought the pageant had been ruined.  Most considered it the best Christmas pageant they had ever seen.

Merry Christmas!

(This legendary story has circulated for years.  The edition above appeared in Dynamic Preaching magazine on December 1986; the earliest version has been traced back to a 1966 edition of Reader's Digest.)

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