“And she gave birth to her firstborn son, and she wrapped him in clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Lk. 2:7)
Every good story has a beginning, a conflict or tension, and an end. The story of the birth of Jesus began with Joseph and Mary making an arduous journey from Nazareth to the city of David, Bethlehem. No one has to tell us what a difficult trip that must have been, traveling over mountain paths littered with stones, pitfalls, and crevices. It would be a strenuous task even for a healthy person; yet God brought Mary, laden down with a nine month old pregnancy, safely to Bethlehem.
When they arrived the conflict of the story begins. They went from inn to inn and all they found were “no vacancy” signs. One innkeeper in particular told them in a not so friendly tone “there was no room for them in the inn.” You can’t blame him too much because the little village was overcrowded with people there to pay their taxes. The tax was levied by Caesar Augustus to help defray the expenses of his two hundred and fifty thousand man army.
A study made by the University of the Holy Land describes for us the architecture of the family home at the time of Jesus’ birth. The most common dwelling was a courtyard home which was multi-leveled. A lower room or cellar was used as a storeroom. In the hilly areas like Bethlehem, a cave adjacent to the courtyard might often be adapted for keeping the family’s prized animals sheltered at night. The average nighttime temperature during the early winter season would range from thirty-four to fifty-five degrees at night. This cave-like area would provide protection from the cold, thieves, and predators. The main living area, partitioned into several sections, was on the upper level. It had a work and kitchen area, where the children often slept, and a separate bedroom for the parents. In Luke 2:7 the Greek word kataluma can be translated either “inn,” or “guest room” and may have referred to this room in the family home.
No doubt by the time the Magi arrived at “the house” (Mt. 2:11) where Jesus was living, the family would already have been moved upstairs.
Prayer: Dear Lord, you are so gracious in providing a cozy place for Jesus’ birth.