Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Just exactly where was he born? What was this Inn where there was no room?
The traditional Christmas play gives us an idea, but a close examination of the Biblical account makes more sense and is more interesting. The play has to take certain liberties, to get everything into a 30-minute time frame.
Luke 2:7 says she (Mary) gave birth and wrapped Jesus in cloths and laid him in a manger. She did this because there was no room at the Inn.
No room at the Inn?
What exactly was this “Inn” where there was no room?
We get the idea of a crusty old hotel manager who has no rooms, so he sends them out into the cold and somehow they end up in a barn.
But what is more likely, is that the “Inn” was not a hotel at all, but a guest room in someone’s house – probably family – since Mary and Joseph were both from the immediate area.
Also earlier in Luke Chapter 1, Mary visits Elizabeth who gives birth to John the Baptist. Luke 2:6 says “While” they were there Mary gave birth. Apparently they were already settled in wherever it was they were staying when Jesus was born.
The account also says she wrapped the baby Jesus in cloths. This was the common practice at the time.
The Other Room
The word used for “Inn” in the original languages means simply a room. It is only used three times in the New Testament. The other two times it is used (Mark 14:14 and Luke 22:11) is when Jesus asked his disciples to go and prepare the Upper Room for the last supper. The NIV translates the word “Guest” room.
There was no room there where they were staying, so Mary gave birth in the “outer” room.
This outer room would also be where animals were brought for the night, and likely there would be a manger there. In these times in Israel, there was not a lot of difference between a barn and a home. They were normally built together anyway to allow easy access from the house.
When Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan, who put up a wounded Jew at an inn and paid the Innkeeper, the word for Inn is a different word in Greek. This is in Luke 10:34 and it is the only time the word is used in the New Testament.
We have already seen that both Mary and Joseph had relatives in the area, including Elizabeth, who Mary might have been staying with all along anyway. So it is really possible that they stayed with relatives.
After Jesus birth
After Jesus’ birth Mary and Joseph hung around Bethlehem for awhile. Luke 2:21 says Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day after his birth, according to Jewish law, and was given the name Jesus. This was likely done at the temple in Jerusalem, which was only two miles away.
Luke 2:23 says when the “time of purification according to the law of Moses had been completed,” they took Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. This would definitely have been at the temple in Jerusalem.
Leviticus chapter 12 spells all this out. The first born was to be presented and dedicated to the Lord in the temple. First there had to be the eight days until circumcision, which was also the amount of time Mary would have been considered unclean. The “days of purification” was 33 days according to Leviticus 12, and only then could the baby Jesus be taken to the temple. This was 40 days or so after Jesus birth.
In Luke 2:39 it says they returned to Galilee and Jesus grew up.
Luke does not record many things that Matthew does and vice versa. From Luke we get the idea they left the temple and headed out to Galilee, but Matthew shows it wasn’t quiet that simple. The two accounts fit together beautifully, but they do give different information.