Alternate Realities: Inn

Published on December 11, 2014

“And [she] laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)

“A veridical paradox produces a result that seems absurd but is demonstrably true nevertheless … Hilbert’s paradox of the Grand Hotel is an example of a theory that has been taken to a logical but paradoxical end.” (www.wikipedia.com)


1 And it came to pass, that all the world should be taxed; and every man did go back to his home to be taxed.
2 And Joseph went out of the city of Nazareth, and into the city of David, which is called Bethlehem,
3 To be taxed, with Mary, his married wife, who was with child.
4 And in Bethlehem there was an inn with many rooms, the number being infinite;
5 And there was also a manger, where the horses fed.
6 And Mary asked the innkeeper if there was room for them, for they were tired.
7 And when the innkeeper said that there was not, Mary asked to be shown the manger.
8 Now the innkeeper was a good man, and he said to the virgin (for she was a virgin), You shall not sleep in the manger, for this inn has an infinite number of rooms, and there shall always be room, even when there is none.
9 And he said to his guests, who were infinite in number, You shall all move one room down.
10 And the guests, who were good guests, did as the innkeeper commanded; and they all moved one room down; and the guest in the first room moved to the second, and the guest in the one hundred and first room to the one hundred and second, and the guest in the one thousand and first room to the one thousand and second; and the guest, who was in the end room, moved one room down, and he found a room there.
11 And, lo, the first room was ready for Mary and Joseph.
12 And, behold, Mary brought into the world a son, who was the Lord.
13 And at this time, three wise men came to see the Lord; (for they had seen his star in the east;)
14 And they said to the innkeeper, Where is the Lord?
15 And the innkeeper took them to the first room.
16 And there the men saw the child; and they laid treasures at His feet: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
17 And when they had worshipped him, they asked the innkeeper if there was room for them, for they were tired.
18 And when the innkeeper said that there was no room, the wise men asked to be shown the manger;
19 And the good innkeeper said, You shall not sleep in the manger, for this inn has an infinite number of rooms, and there shall always be room, even when there is none.
20 And the innkeeper said to his guests, who were infinite in number, You shall all move three rooms down.
21 And the guests, who were good guests, did as the innkeeper commanded; and the guest in the second room moved to the fifth, the guest in the one hundred and second room moved to the one hundred and fifth, and the guest in the one thousand and second room moved to the one thousand and fifth; and the guest, who was in the end room, moved three rooms down, and he found a room there.
22 And Mary and Joseph moved from the first room to the fourth, even though they were tired.
23 And, lo, the first three rooms were ready for the wise men.
24 Now at the same time there were shepherds in the land watching over their flock.
25 And the angel of the Lord came to them,
26 Saying, Do not be afraid, for today Christ is born.
27 And the shepherds, who were half score in number, went to Bethlehem to see him.
28 And they said to the innkeeper, Where is the Lord?
29 And he pointed to the fourth room, saying, There.
30 And there they found Mary and Joseph, and the child.
31 And when they had worshipped him, they asked the innkeeper if there was room for them, for they were tired;
32 And when the innkeeper said that there was not, the shepherds asked to be shown the manger.
33 And the innkeeper-who-was-a-good-innkeeper said, You shall not sleep in the manger, for this inn has an infinite number of rooms, and there shall always be room, even when there is none.
34 But the shepherds also asked, What about our sheep, who are fifty score in number? Is there not room for them, too?
35 And the innkeeper said, Yes, for this inn has an infinite number of rooms, and there shall always be room, even when–
36 And the shepherds said, Just do the thing.
37 And the innkeeper said to his guests, who were infinite in number, You shall all move–
38 (And he counted on his fingers-)
39 One thousand and ten rooms down.
40 And the guests-who-were-good-guests did as he commanded, and moved one thousand and ten rooms down; and the guest in room five moved to room one thousand and fifteen; and so on; and the guest, who was in the end room, moved one thousand and ten rooms down, and he found a room there.
41 And the wise men moved from the first and second and third rooms; and Mary and Joseph moved from the fourth room; even though they were tired.
42 And, lo, the first ten rooms were ready for the shepherds, who were half score in number; and the next one thousand rooms were ready for the sheep, who were fifty score in number.
43 Now the sheep and the shepherds and the three wise men and Joseph were asleep.
44 But Mary was not asleep, for the Lord was crying;
45 And she walked him up and down the hallways, breastfeeding him.
46 And she saw the infinite number of rooms with her eyes, but she could not see it in her heart.
47 And she said to the innkeeper, You say that this inn has an infinite number of rooms. You say that there shall always be room, even when there is none. I say, This is impossible.
48 And the innkeeper said, It ispossible;
49 You see it with your eyes, but you cannot see it with your heart; I cannot see it with my eyes, but I see it with my heart;
50 There were guests here before you; there will be guests here after you;
51 Here, there is room for no one and everyone;
52 For this inn has an infinite number of rooms: should half the guests depart, the inn would be full, and there would still be room; should twice as many guests arrive, the inn would be full, and there would still be room;
53 I say, The nature of impossibility is possibility.
54 And when the innkeeper had finished speaking, the Lord was crying no more.
55 And Mary thought about what the innkeeper had said,
56 And she kept these things, and pondered them in her heart.
57 But still she could not sleep, for two more guests had arrived, a man and his married wife, who was with child; and the innkeeper was asking everyone to move again.


Andrew Last is the host of “The New Classics” — a book review series for people who can’t read. He has a diverse background in music and environmental science and is interested in the role of literature in positive social change. He likes birds.

Kitty Allison is a writer and vis artist living in Brisbane. You can find her on twitter: @kitallison.