Luke 2:6-7 :
It happened, while they were there, that the day had come that she should give birth. She brought forth her firstborn son, and she wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a feeding trough, because there was no room for them in the inn.
I learned new things about these verses recently. For many years I assumed that these verses described a situation in which Jesus’ parents were reluctantly allowed to stay in a barn or a cave because an innkeeper couldn’t find a better spot for this obviously pregnant woman and her husband in a foreign place. What I have discovered is that my culture and the translation of the word “inn” have led me down this path. Now I see that a better understanding can be gained by carefully considering middle-eastern culture at the time of Dr. Luke’s writing.
I recently read that it was common in the culture at that time to invite your family members into your home to stay when they came into town. Evidently, there were many family members in town because of the “enrollment.” I also learned that many homes had a guest room and that the word “inn” can be a translation of the name for that room of the house. It would probably be a better translation in to modern English to us the words “guest room” instead of “inn.”
The other thing that I learned was that it wasn’t uncommon to bring a few of your animals into the house on the lower level at night. This would increase the temperature of the small houses that they lived in. In the morning, they would be taken back out side. Because animals would be allowed in, there were feeding troughs in the houses on that lower level. Knowing this, it makes more sense that when there were many guests, the animals had to stay outside to let the guests have a place to stay instead.
With this information, it would make more sense to assume that Jesus was born at a family member’s house in the lower level because the guest room had already been taken, and that the feeding trough made a perfect bed for the baby after it was born. Perhaps a good way to paraphrase this in our culture is to say that, Mary and Joseph had to stay in the garage because the guest room was taken and that they put Jesus bundled up on the workbench. The family was probably happy to be with Mary and Joseph at the time, but one would still have to wonder why it is that they had to stay in the garage. They were probably happy to be with their family members, though, so it ended up that God made the “enrollment” situation work out good for them.
God is like that. We see here that God works out many details for us so that, even though we don’t know what the future holds, we can rely on God and know that He will work things out that we don’t understand. We may even have a good time instead of the difficult one that we expect.