She had mentioned it to him before but for some reason brought it up again:

“You really should clean out the shed.” He agreed and said he had been putting it off for a while but with the census happening and the pressure they would be under in the days to come, he felt she was right. It was only fair to the few animals they had. They’d been lying on the same bedding for longer than he’d normally allow. He did the few bits around the Inn, made sure they had enough stock, had a bit to eat and headed for the shed.

It was a simple structure, at the back of their home and it seemed as if it had been there forever. He wondered who had built it but had never asked. As children, they played there – “hide and seek” and other games that took them beyond the day to day life of Bethlehem. Imagination was the only toy they needed and, in the shed, it took on a life of its own. He took out the old straw and, for some reason totally foreign to his way of thinking, decided to sweep up the odd bits that he’d normally just cover over. He checked the lights and put more oil in than he might normally use. All the while, the cow and donkey watched – they too knew him to be a gentle man and he had a respect for them that they knew wasn’t always found in the humankind. Kind! Yes, that’s what he was a “kind” man.

He spent longer cleaning the shed than usual. He let his mind wander and he remembered his father one time giving the use of the shed to some people that passed through the town. He wondered where those people slept that time but knew there were no complaints. “In fairness”, he said to himself “it’s not a bad place. If I didn’t have the few animals, I often thought it would make a nice room.” Then he looked at the two, as they chewed away and said: “Don’t worry, as long as you’re here, this shed is for you-you alone.” But he thought again about his father offering shelter all those years ago. Strange, he hadn’t thought of that in years …

“How did you get on cleaning the shed?” she asked him that evening. “You should see it,” he replied, “amazing! It’s fit for a king!” They laughed.

(Extract from “Let Advent Be Advent”)


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