Every Christmas pageant that I have seen includes an Innkeeper that gruffly says; “Sorry but there is no room in the Inn. Go away,” and he slams the door. Poor little Billy’s heart wasn’t in it. After perfectly saying his lines he whispered, “you can stay in my room.” I hate to burst your bubble but the Bible doesn’t mention an Innkeeper and there were no Hilton hotels in first century Palestine.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:4-7 (ESV) or because there was no lodging available for them. Luke 2:7 (NLT)
Mary and Joseph were inconveniently ordered to go to Bethlehem in Judea – his ancestral home for a census. It would be customary to find a relative to lodge with but we can safely assume that other family members beat them there. The Greek word used here for “Inn” is “kataluma” meaning guest room. This is the same word used for “the Upper Room” Jesus shared His last meal in. The word used for “Inn” in the story of the Good Samaritan was “pandocheion” where a fee was paid.
The stable we like to envision was actually in a cave or more likely an extra room below the family home where animals were brought for warmth and safety at night. The manger would have been a stone chiseled feeding trough not a wooden crib. However the truth is it would still have been warm and far more private to give birth there than in the hallway or middle of a room surrounded by people. We don’t know if a mid-wife was on hand to help or any other small details.
So what do we know? The Shepherds were told to find the baby in a manger as a sign and they did. God shifted from the Divine to human when He sent His Son to be born to humble, outcast parents. A small baby is not intimidating but instead people draw near. Jesus was not born in a palace but in the middle of a busy, crowded, small town to ordinary people. Joseph and Mary were ordinary people chosen for a very unique and sacred task; to care for, teach and love the Son of God. We know that they trusted God and faithfully obeyed His Word.
Innkeeper or not, the same questions remain. Will you make room in your heart and home for Jesus ? He doesn’t care about the busy, messy, crowded life you live. He wants to have a relationship with ordinary, everyday people, just like you. The Christmas season calls us to draw near, make room and worship Him.
Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne – a hymn
Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou came-est to earth for me,
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity:
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus; There is room in my heart for Thee