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Fr. Cecil Champneys Burnham

1914 - 2002

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The church was filled on Christmas Day,

With joy the bells were rung;

The organ swelled in praise of God

As much loved hymns were sung.

From holly covered pulpit high

The priest said, “I’ll begin

To preach upon that age old text.

“There’s no room in the inn


“You will recall how Joseph sought

Some shelter for his wife

Where Mary could in quiet warmth

Bring to the world new life.

The name of him who kept that inn

All Christian folk deride.

For Mary, tired and travel worn,

Such shelter was denied”.


‘No room within the inn’ he cried

To his eternal shame,

But in the inn we call our heart

We often do the same.

Sometimes our hearts are filled with pride,

Black jealousy and sin,

Which means that for our little Lord

There’s no room in our inn”.


“Let’s pledge ourselves that from to—night

We will not emulate

The keeper of that Bethl’em inn

Whom we have learned to hate”.

Suddenly a voice rang out,

“You do me grievous wrong”.

A dark skinned man in flowing robes

Walked angrily along.


The congregation thought they saw

A figure from a play

Who with the Vicar had arranged

To dramatise the day.

In middle nave he stopped and stared

At all the people round.

He spoke out clearly with a voice

That had an Eastern sound.


“Who are you, Sir”, the preacher asked,

“Who rudely intervene

And dare to burst in angry vein

Upon our Christmas scene?”

Replied the stranger, “Here you see

A figure from the past.

I’ve crossed the bounds of time and space

To clear my name at last”.


“‘Twas I who kept in Bethlehem

The inn of which you speak

And who you say turned from that inn

Sweet Mary mild and meek.

The cursed Roman governor

A census had to take,

And every man to his home town

The journey had to make”


“So men of David’s lineage

To David’s town were sent.

The place was crammed with merchants too

Upon their business bent.

My caravanserai was full.

Was that my fault or sin?

 So I answered Joseph truly,

‘There’s no room in the inn”’


“The limestone hills of Bethlehem

Had many a natural cave

In which we kept our animals

From cold night winds to save.

The inn was just an open space.

Arcades were built around

Unprotected from the courtyard’s

Bustle, smells and sound”


“The beasts that bore the travellers,

Be it camel, mule or horse,

Were tethered in that courtyard

And watered there of course.

There amid their animals

Poor travellers would sleep.

This was no place for any man

His pregnant wife to keep”.


“Was not a quiet secluded stable

More like to calm the fears

Of Mary in her pangs of birth

Than amid the muleteers?

So in that rock hewn stable,

Kept warm from cold night air,

Protected from the world outside,

Her Child did Mary bear”.


The Vicar said, “If this be truth,

injustice has been done.

We see you did your best to help

God’s little new born Son

The stranger said, “But I forgive,

So taught by the Child’s prayer”.

He ceased to speak. The people stared

He was no longer there.


 “We all have learned”, the Vicar cried.

“A lesson that is good.

We must not judge another man

Till his background’s understood.

Be careful how you criticise,

Though black the case may seem.

There may be things you do not know

Which would his fault redeem”.


“When God desired to save the world,

No army did He send.

He sent instead a Child Whose love

Our characters should mend.

Now go in peace. God go with you.

Think well of fellow man

And give to those who’re in distress

Whatever help you can”.

Copyright © 2000 [Rev. C. Champneys Burnham]. All rights reserved.
Revised: May 24, 2018 .