I took the opportunity to join an online study this Advent season about the origins of Christmas.
Author, Lee Strobel wrote The Case for Christmas – Evidence for the Identity of Jesus in which he explores the origins and facts surrounding the birth of the Saviour of the world.
It is pretty extraordinary to read and discover things you have been told your whole life are not completely accurate but slightly fantasized.
Here are some notes from the first session that definitely enlightened me.
It would have been unthinkable in the first century for anyone to turn away a pregnant Jewish woman seeking shelter. The person who turned her away would be ostracized.
Luke specifically chose the Greek word katalyma in the account of Jesus’ birth, which is best translated as “guest room.” In fact, the New International Version translates Luke 2:7 as saying Mary placed Jesus in a manger “because there was no guest room available for them.”
Luke says the time for Jesus to be born came “while they were there” in Bethlehem. Luke doesn’t portray this as an emergency situation that arose as they approached the village.
– Lee Strobel
One of the biggest notes here that interested me was the piece about where Mary and Joseph were trying to stay.
Strobel explains how there most likely was no “inn” in Bethlehem because it was such a small city. There wouldn’t have been any type of hotel in this area.
Homes in that time usually had about three rooms. There was an animal room, a family room and a guest room. A guest room of a friend or relative would have been where Mary and Joseph were trying to find a place to stay for the census. Due to all the visitors in Bethlehem to be counted, no one would have had a spare space by the time the couple arrived.
Another note, Strobel makes is how animals sometimes moved about between the animal room and the family room. Due to this, a manger trough would have been in both rooms.
Hospitality in those days was a heightened priority of people. Mary would’ve have given birth to Jesus in a “family room” and not in the “animal room.” However, animals most likely would have been present in the family room.
All of that about the space they would’ve been staying in is to me one of the most interesting parts of this study so far.
If you’re interested in learning more, please check out The Case for Christmas by Lee Strobel.