In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
I grew up in a motel. My mom and dad built a motel in which we lived 24/7 for a number of years before we got managers. One thing is true: when you can put up the NO VACANCY sign it is a good night in the motel business. It means that to the extent that your rate structure supports your expenses you are able to live and maybe even make a profit. So when I read that for Mary and Joseph there was no room for them in the inn, I read, “Happy hotelier; another profitable day of business.” I don’t read “harsh and uncaring innkeeper.” I don’t read anything synnister or unloving toward the Lord of life.
Furthermore the word for “inn” is used to describe the “upper room” in which Jesus and his disciples celebrated Passover on the night he was betrayed. So it wasn’t quite a Motel 6 that was “full up” in motel lingo.
Having said all that, there was no room in the upper room, the inn, or any other place than where there was a manger for the child to be laid. What’s more is that the birth of Jesus is recorded in few words. The birth takes place in the context of Caesar Augustus’ decree, and trip from Galilee to Bethlehem, the lineage of Joseph, and the presence of Mary his espoused wife.
We know today that God was guiding the whole process: from conception, to birthplace, to lowly circumstance: God is at work bringing life and light to the world. He is pulling the threads of history together in order that his Son would fulfill all prophecies and redeem us. Whether or not Joseph and Mary were given a room in the inn, or Jesus was provided a crude manger in which to be laid, the question does beg for an answer today: is there room in my heart and life for Jesus to be born anew? Does he reign in my heart by his grace and love? Will I welcome him as he comes to me? Thanks to the work of God’s Holy Spirit we can welcome Jesus. May he rule our hearts by his grace throughout this day.