“And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” ~ Luke 2:7
“No room.” These are words that are difficult to hear. Especially if you have a wife about to give birth or desperately need a place to stay, these words describe more than the inn in the Christmas story. They apply just as fittingly to today’s world. Sadly, in our Christmas celebrations’ busyness, people still make no room for Jesus. Without realizing it, they miss Christmas, just like most people in and around Bethlehem on the night Jesus was born.
Many people miss Christmas every year. They observe the season because culture says it’s the thing to do, but much of the population is oblivious to the reality of what they are celebrating. So much fantasy and myth have been linked to the holiday that people are numb to the real miracle of the Messiah’s birth. The legitimate emotion of the holiday has given way to overly emotional and insincere self-indulgence.
Have you heard of the man-on-the-street interviews where people offered their opinions of the real meaning of Christmas? The views ranged from sappy to irreverent. Some were sentimental, saying Christmas is family time or a time for children. Others are more humanistic, seeing Christmas as a time to celebrate love for one’s fellow man or the spirit of giving. Still, others were pleasure-seeking, viewing Christmas as just another excuse to party. Not one person made mention of the miracle of God’s birth as a human baby.
What a mess! We have combined the holiday with so many traditions and hype that we miss the simplicity of Christ’s birth. Ironically, this one has become the most complex of all holidays. Is this why so many people miss Christmas?
Yet one thing hasn’t changed since the time of Joseph and Mary: nearly everyone missed that first Christmas, too. Like people today, they were busy, consumed with all kinds of things—some important, some not—but nearly everyone missed Christ. The similarities between their world and ours are striking. Every one of these people has a counterpart in modern society in the Innkeeper.
Scripture doesn’t specifically mention him, but that night in Bethlehem, an innkeeper was confronted by a man and his pregnant wife. He turned them away, saying he had no room for them. And so, he missed Christmas. Not only did he turn Mary and Joseph away, but he did not even call for anyone to help a young mother about to give birth.
Luke 2:7 sets the scene, “And [Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths and laid Him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.” That verse communicates a lonely birth. This was far from typical in first-century Jewish culture. These were not barbaric people. They were civilized, intelligent, educated, and, above all, hospitable people who cared deeply about human life. It would be highly unusual for a young woman about to give birth to be turned away from an inn and left to give birth alone in a stable.
Scripture is not clear about what kind of inn Bethlehem had. It could have been a guest room, hostel, or simple shelter. Scripture gives no clue beyond the single mention of an inn. Whatever hospitality Joseph and Mary sought, it was unavailable to them. They were turned away. The Innkeeper might have been a landowner whose property included a simple shelter or the host of a boarding house. At any rate, this Innkeeper in Bethlehem missed that first Christmas. The Son of God might have been born on his property. But he turned away a young mother about to deliver a child, so he missed Christmas.
He missed it because he was preoccupied. His inn was full. It was census time in Bethlehem, and the city was swollen with everyone whose ancestry returned to the little town. Bethlehem was the city of David, so every living descendant of David would have been there, along with every other family whose roots were in Bethlehem. The town was crowded. The Innkeeper was busy. There is no indication that he was hostile or even unsympathetic. He was just busy.
Like millions of people today, at Christmas, their lives are so consumed with activity—shopping, banquets, parties, concerts, school activities, and other things—that they miss Christ. Don’t let your busyness distract you from the Son of God.
Questions for Thought
- Have you believed the lie that there is “no room” for Jesus in your life? Where have you said you are “too busy” for God?
- Take some time to reflect. What is God doing in your life right now? Where do you see Him moving?
Identify one thing keeping you “too busy,” and write down ways to make room for God. Maybe you take time during dinner to pray with your family each day, wake up a little earlier to serve on Sunday mornings, or dedicate time each week to join a Bible study. You may not feel as though you have room for Jesus when, in reality, we don’t have room for anything else. Don’t believe the lie that you’re “too busy,” and make room for Jesus in your life.
Associate Executive Pastor
Guy Shafer is an integrator for our ministries and operations, helping the church accomplish its mission strategically and effectively. He is also the champion and leader of the Stewardship Ministry at First Dallas. Guy has served in full-time ministry for more than 40 years. Married in 1985, he and Mary have two children and seven grandchildren, all living in the DFW area.