This blog entry is day 9 of our Twelve Days of Christmas - a series run this Christmas that finishes tomorrow. It has been fun looking at the Christmas story in new ways with you!
Day #9 - A place in your heart.
There was nowhere to go, no one had any room for them . . .
So goes the saying that there was ‘no room in the Inn’ popular surrounding he Christmas story.
However, scholar Kenneth Bailey brings up two major problems with this idea. First, it was have been shameful for anyone in the Middle East to deprive a woman in the process of labor a place to stay. Having taught in the Middle East and an expert on Ancient Palestine, Bailey goes on to explain that the same is true today – not one person would turn away someone knocking on their door (much less a woman who was about to give birth).
The second has to do with the word “Inn” which seems to have been mistranslated. The more appropriate idea is the ‘living space’ or the central area of a small home. Since Bethlehem was flooded with people registering for the census, there were lots of people that had taken space already in the most prominent room in the house. So we should not envision Joseph running frantically from house to house looking for someone with charity.
Instead the idea is that the only available area in the particular house that they were given refuge was the stable – something like our garage. Every house had one – complete with mangers (stone hewn cattle feeders) and animals. In fact it was the duty of the man of the house to let the cattle out first thing in the morning.
So it is more likely that Jesus was born in the garage.
Now that we have a more accurate view of what took place, I’m not sure what really shifts – except that people who were not incredibly rich themselves gave of what they had and God used it. The God of the universe is now in a carved piece of stone around a bunch of animals, shepherds and curious onlookers. It was enough.
It is probably something that should challenge us to always have a place in our heart for the poor – but especially in this season. Maybe some simple gesture of generosity will help us get more of an idea of what that first Christmas was like. Try this – before you watch another Christmas movie or bake another batch of cookies – take some of your money, but a gift card, put it in an envelope, grab your kids and go out at night and stuff as many envelopes as you are able into mailboxes that may be able to use a little extra at this time of year.
Kind of like ring and run.
Then go home to some hot chocolate and a movie knowing that you didn’t just celebrate Christmas – you participated in it.