Fatigue gestured to the traveler, pulling him toward it and a certain death. Thank goodness for the road’s rumble strips, he thought or he would have left the road and hit a tree. He needed to find a hotel and quick. But the rural Pennsylvania countryside offered nothing but darkness and trees.
The traveler had rolled down the windows and blasted the radio in a vain attempt to stay awake. Cold air did battle with a certain death. Sleep would be so easy now. So comfortable. Yet, so final.
It was Christmas Eve and he was trying to make his way home. His final flight from Philadelphia had been cancelled due a sudden snowstorm and he had rented the last car in the airport. The traveler had fought the blizzard for nearly 60 miles until he finally made it to the outskirts of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Making it the last 50 miles home seemed like an impossibility. Ice and fatigue were fighting in tandem to stop him. He so wanted to see his boys wake up to find Santa had come. No, he wanted his sons to wake up and find he had arrived. The snow had tapered and the roads were fairly clear now. The traveler pressed on but knew he needed to sleep.
Now he was just praying for a motel so he could rest his weary head.
Fatigue tugged at him again as his car left the road. The traveler woke up just in time to miss a bridge support. He was awake now. And fear was his co-pilot and was screaming in his ear.
“God, I need a miracle.”
When he finished his prayer, he saw a glow in the distance. The traveler sped toward it and saw a sign for a cheap motel. It beckoned to him like a flame would to a moth. Salvation was on the horizon.
The traveler pulled his small rental Ford into the motel parking lot. It was full. This was worrisome, he thought. He remembered a recent trip across Texas where all the motels all across West Texas had no vacancy. He had ended up driving through the night before making El Paso. Not tonight. He couldn’t go another mile further. “God, please let there be a room.”
An elderly man with sat at the counter, reading an old Sports Illustrated and fighting sleep himself. The traveler carried his bag and announced, “Gotta room?”
The innkeeper, who was hired more for his willingness to work the night shift than his sterling personality, grunted, “One. You’re in luck.”
The traveler was relieved. It was his own personal Christmas miracle. He had cheated fatigue for most of the night and now had made it safely to a bed. His credit card made a smart snap as he plunked it down on the counter.
Just then, the doors to the hotel flew open. A man and a very pregnant woman burst through them, carrying two bags. The woman was crying and the man was trying to comfort her by saying, “I’m sure they have a room, honey. I’m sure. If not, we can sleep in the barn behind the hotel.”
The traveler stood, looking at the couple and gripping his key. Maybe he could slip out of sight and they wouldn’t see him. He did make it there first after all. And he was so tired. Very tired. But as he heard the woman sob louder, he looked at her and sighed. “Oh alright,” he mumbled as he walked back to the counter.
“You can have my room,” he said to the young man as he handed him his key, “My treat.” The young man looked at the traveler and said, “thank you, sir.”
The traveler grabbed a pillow and a blanket and as he headed back out to his car, he said, “Merry Christmas.” He’d catch a quick snooze and then head on back home in time for Christmas morning.
As he got as comfortable as he could in a rented Ford, the traveler thought about the young couple and smiled. Sleep’s angel wrapped her arms safely around him as a bright star illuminated the traveler of Bethlehem.