Our Bible translates the word kataluma as inn, but it literally means guest room not hotel or “inn.” Luke says there was no room for Mary and Joseph in the family guest room, and so they had to be placed elsewhere in the house. According to the dictates of Middle Eastern hospitality, it would be unthinkable to send out-of-town relatives elsewhere to stay. But it was a time of paying taxes, and as this was the city of Joseph’s lineage, probably lots of family were gathered. Perhaps by the time they arrived, the guest room was filled, and so the next best place would be the outer room where the animals were brought each night for safekeeping. That is where the manger, the feed trough for the animals would be found.
We can picture this. We go home to be with our families at Christmas. All the rooms get filled. Maybe you get the pull-out couch in the den while your kids are curled up in sleeping bags on the floor.
This picture puts a different light on this familiar story. Maybe Jesus was born, not in an impersonal stable, but in the front room of a house with aunts and uncles doting on the new baby.
Soon enough, this little family would have to flee for their lives from Herod. There would be difficult days ahead. But tonight, God incarnate was wrapped in the blessings of family.
Of course, this story is not just about Joseph and Mary coming home to the safety of their family. It’s about God, Lord of lords, King of kings, Prince of peace, Savior of the world, coming home. We couldn’t get to God, and so God got to us, coming among us in the most mundane of ways. Our God came out of the cold to dwell among us.
Will you welcome the Christ child into your home this day? Will you welcome the Christ child into the home of your heart this day? Will you all the Good News to penetrate the depths of where you dwell this day? May it be so for all of us. And may that fill our hearts with joy!
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