© Carlos Padilla, December 2019 Christmas

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The tradition of the Nativity of Yahshua – Jesus Christ tells us that Joseph and Mary had to spend the night of the birth of Jesus in a stable, on their own, because there was no place for them in the inn, and that there was nobody that could receive them and help them. But the Jewish tradition on hospitality and God’s Law obliges to shelter a stranger, more over family of the same village of birth. What does the Bible tell us about the birth of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke 2?

“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed [a]wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a [b]manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”


Can we really think that Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem, the place from where his family came from, a small village, and they had no place to stay, knowing culturally the hospitality and the commandment of the Jewish practice to shelter the visitor (Isaiah 58:7)?

First of all we should consider verse 6 where we are told that they were there already, that Mary went into labour while they were in Bethlehem, not as they arrived, therefore there was no urgency and the birth of Jesus was not when Joseph and Mary just arrived at night and there was no place in the inn. Inn is the word to which we are used to because it is the one that was translated in the Middle Ages, but the word used by Luke in original Greek Text is katalema which is used to guest room, and it is also used for upper room –like the one used by Jesus with His disciples to take the Holy Supper- as well as the Hebrew word used in Genesis 42:27 where the ox eats in the inn of his master.

If we travel along time and the culture of the times of the birth of Jesus and remember the Jewish traditions coming from the Pentateuch with regards to hospitality between the family, and even with regards to strangers, which lack is a sin against God’s Law –something governments and institutions dealing with immigration (Leviticus 19:33-34) – we are going to find a narration under the magnifying glass of the Bible, of history and of an anthropological culture that a bit different and enriching for our lives, but more than all for the sake of the truth, or at least the more probable story of Jesus’ birth.

Coming back to the Text and the inn, when it says that “…and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” we find to facts of the story that have been understood in a different way. The manger use to be next to the main living room of the houses, that were of one floor, and down stairs when they were of two, in such a way that the animals were next to the room where the family lived, or even with them, especially all the little ones as pets, little lamb, little cows, etc. The inn, we have seen that it really is the guest’s quarters or accommodation, which was next to the main living room, or upstairs. For a mother about to give birth and where there was no place in the guest accommodation, which must have been several of the family, the only way was for them to stay in the main living room with the family and with the manger at sight to see the Baby. There is also the possibility of a cave, doe to the fact that houses next to mountains use to have a room excavated as a cave, that is why some scenes of Christmas have a cave. In the same way the Church of the Nativity built by Emperor Constantine and his mother Helen, (Church of S. Helen) in the IV century a.D. includes an excavation in the rock. We cannot discard the stable itself which was next to the main living room, or in the lower level, which could be used as extra accommodation once cleaned and animals taken out as extension of the house when a lot of family came, but we have already read at the beginning that they were already in Bethlehem for a while when the day of the birth came, and we will see further how they remain many days.

Another part of the story that we can deduce is that Joseph was coming to his land, where he was from, where he must have had family and friends, where his father and his grandfather where known, and in any case he would only have to recite his genealogy to be received, in case he did not know his relatives recently, so it is not reasonable to think that they could not stay in the house of any of them, although the Bible does not give us that data, but contextually is the more logical, like it does not tell the contrary, which is the least logical. Verse 3 sais that they were all going to be registered, of which we can deduce that those from Bethlehem would go together from Nazareth, or they would meet in the way with others from different villages or they would meet with those of Bethlehem when there. And they all needed accommodation, which by tradition was with relatives or friends, not in inns, where strangers went. Another data is verse 44, also from chapter 2, where Luke tells that every year they would go to Jerusalem in Passover with their relatives and friends, which proves a familiar relationship.

A last option could be that due to the fact that Mary conceived before being together with Joseph, families would reject to shelter them, and be the reason for which we have no data of the family whom they stayed with, but verse 44 tells that they would go with family and friends. Either at the beginning they were not accepted and then yes, or they were from the beginning and/or the fact of the virginal conception of Mary previous to getting together with Joseph was not known to the rest, at the beginning. We must also consider that Jesus was circumcised 8 days after His birth; they kept 40 days of their purification to then come to the temple to present the Child, who was firstborn, to the Lord and fulfil the Law of Moses, offering a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, which makes us deduce that they stood with the family and friends in the house of accommodation for some time, it was not an inn, which as the original Text of Luke it referred to the guest accommodation of private houses. We also know by the story that inns use to be in main roads.

So, we can conclude that Jesus was born in a private family house, the same the sheppards found, something they were used to, they were not sent to an inn of strangers, what we know today as motels and hotels, but a scene that would be familiar to them, because the Messiah came from Bethlehem of Judah, Hi house. The sacred Family was, then, received in a private house and the birth taken care by the women, matron mothers, who would support Mary and Joseph providing all that was needed for the Child and his mother.

Did Jesus receive recognition as Messiah at birth? The visit of the magi (Matthew 2), of the sheppards and the words of Simeon, the elder of the temple and of the elder prophetess Anna in fact gave good testimony that, that Child was the King of kings, the awaited Messiah, the Christ.

We the conclude that Jesus was born between family, like any beloved child and received by His relatives and friends of His parents, of which many would reject Him as Messiah, but also from which some would receive Him as Saviour. The Bible and history have surprised us once more for good with the guide of the Holy Spirit, who teaches us all things always (John 14:26). Let’s celebrate that Jesus was born amongst the family and let us receive Him amongst our family, not only with presents, lights, food and good deeds in Christmas, but that our life must reflect that we have received Jesus in His birth, in His death on the Cross and raised, and amongst the Church we await His coming, in His kingdom. Amen! Merry Christmas amongst the family!