A reader sent me the below, which is one of his favorite Christmas stories picked up from a 1966 Reader’s Digest.
The Christmas Invitation
It was the biggest event of the year in the little town of Cornwall – the annual Christmas pageant, starring many of the people of the town.
When it came time for casting the various parts, every parent wanted their son or daughter to be included. On audition day, it didn’t take long to match every part with just the right person. But then there was Harold. The little guy really wanted a part. But because of his learning disabilities, the directors kept passing him over. But Harold just kept popping up again, asking for a part. Finally, the directors gave in and gave him what they judged to be a no-risk part – the innkeeper who comes to the door and tells Mary and Joseph the inn is full. It was a part with only one simple line.
Little did they know that the stage had been set for the most memorable Christmas pageant they had ever seen.
The night of the pageant, you had to get there early just to get a seat.
Backstage, the shepherds were putting on their bathrobes, the angels were adjusting their haloes, and everyone was reviewing their lines. The directors were going over Harold’s line with him one more time – “Remember, Harold – ‘I’m sorry, we have no room.’” Slowly, but surely, Harold repeated his line.
The men of the church had built a set that portrayed Bethlehem in the background, a manger on the right, and the inn on the left.
As Act One neared its end, a weary Mary and Joseph trudged up to the inn door, desperately looking for shelter. Joseph knocked on the inn door. Nothing happened. Backstage the front rows could hear the director whispering, “Now, Harold!” The set began to shake as Harold struggled to get the inn door open. Then, standing there in his bathrobe, Harold listened as Joseph begged for a room for his pregnant wife.
Harold said nothing.
Again, the backstage whisper – “I’m sorry, we have no room.”
Another long pause.
Finally, Harold struggled through his line – “I’m sorry . . . we have no room.” Then he slowly closed the door.
It was as Mary and Joseph began to turn away that totally unforgettable moment came – the one no one would ever forget.
Suddenly, the set started to shake again as Harold again struggled to get the door open. Before the stunned director could get to him, Harold opened the door and ran after the departing Mary and Joseph. And loud enough for people in the basement to hear, Harold shouted – “Wait! Wait! You can have MY room!”