Summary: Christmas in July

First Monday weekend in Canton is an interesting experience. For those of you who have been, you know what I am talking about. There are acres and acres of booths both in pavilions and open air that are filled with people selling anything imaginable, and probably a few things beyond our imaginations.

People there sell everything from new and used furniture to pictures to sunglasses and cookie cutters to things for the kitchen and things for the lawn. There are other vendors that sell things that at least to me look like your average run of the mill junk. And, what is more, there are people there buying it.

In many ways everything in Canton revolves around First Monday weekend. Even though Canton?s population is considerably less than that of Crockett, the Walmart store there is the size of the one in Palestine, because of First Monday weekend. They are the smallest city anywhere in the country to have two permanent police stations, or at least so they claim. There is one on the First Monday grounds. Even the church is effected. First Methodist Canton and the smaller Methodist churches around the town are the only Methodist churches I have ever known of that have communion on the second Sunday of the month instead of the first, too many members are out working First Monday weekend.

Some months are better at First Monday than others. As long as it isn?t raining March, April, May, October, and November are the best months. It isn?t too hot or too cold. On those months people come out of the woodwork. You can forget driving past the grounds. Take the long way to get to Interstate 20, it will be faster. As you try to go the First Monday grounds or even to the bank or Walmart, there is hardly enough room to move.

And, you can forget trying to get a motel room. During those five busy months of the year there is not a motel room to be found anywhere in town. The price of a motel room literally doubles on those busiest weekends. Cindy?s dad once told us that one of his employees wanted to go to First Monday and stay overnight. He had a choice. He could get a room in Dallas or in Tyler. That was as close as he could get. If you don?t make your reservations about a year in advance you could easily hear those Biblical words, "No room at the inn."

We always had a place to stay in Canton. We lived there. If some moment of insanity (those who have lived in Canton don?t have the affection for it that many others do) was to wash over me and I decided to go back for a First Monday weekend I know we would have no problem. We still have enough friends there that we would have a place to stay while we went shopping.

Still, Cindy and I do have some knowledge of what it is like to find no room at the inn. The Navy transferred me from the Naval Training Center in Orlando to a ship homeported in Norfolk. We left Orlando following graduation, about 10:00 on a Friday morning and drove all day and night to get to Norfolk. We got there about 5:00 A.M. We were tired and wanted to find a place where we could get some sleep. We found out that we got there in time for the Oyster Bowl, a football game that I had not heard of before or since. There was not a hotel or motel room anywhere in Norfolk. Finally we found a room in Virginia Beach and we dropped exhausted and ready to sleep.

When we went to Annual Conference this year we found something a bit different. I made our hotel reservations for Monday through Wednesday nights. A month or so later Cindy told me she wanted to get in on Sunday night. I called the Adam?s Mark and tried to change our reservations. I was told there was no room at the inn, at least not at that price. The rate was sold out. They could, however, find some room at double the price.

Sometimes there just isn?t any room at any price. Be it Canton on First Monday weekend or the weekend of the Oyster Bowl in Norfolk Virginia or the many other events that go on in cities all over the world. Hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts and inns get filled to capacity and there is just no more room.

Perhaps that is how things were for Mary and Joseph as the approached the Bethlehem Inn. That is what the Scriptures say. Or perhaps it was more like my experience with the Adam?s Mark, there wasn?t a room available at a price Joseph could afford to pay, as many commentators seem to think.

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