The First Humble Host

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger*, because there was no guest room available for them.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:4-7‬ ‭NIV‬

*a feeding trough

I like to picture baby Jesus nestled in a bed of hay, surrounded by livestock, and in a tuxedo t-shirt (just kidding about the tuxedo t-shirt). But seriously, a small nativity scene under the tree is a must-have in my picture-perfect Christmas. I have never stopped to think about how odd this scene in a barn really is. 

In the Middle East, guests are the most important persons. It is a bit of a stretch to think that a pregnant woman and her husband, distant relatives of King David, would be sent to stay in a barn or cave to give birth. Even in our culture, hard-pressed for authentic hospitality, a woman about to deliver would not be directed to a garage. 

Can you imagine the posts on Nextdoor if that happened? 

I’ve been reading a book* that challenges some of the more commonly held ideas about the life of Jesus, including the nativity story. It suggests the more likely scenario for Mary and Joseph is that one of Joseph’s relatives took them in. Not into a guest room. The passage states there were none available. More specifically, they were invited to stay in the central room of the home. 

I’m not sure I am up for changing my nativity from barn to living room just yet. But what I think is fascinating about this new plausible perspective is that this brave, unidentified host didn’t turn them away to find other accommodations just because he had no guest room free. Instead, he opened the central part of his home and made a place smack dab in the middle of his daily life.

On a regular basis, I turn Jesus away, telling him I have no room. Or I invite him in for a cup of coffee, but once the coffee is cold, I show him the door because I have things that need to get done. My days become more centered around the to-do list and less around the important relationships. 

This time of year, when busyness gets out of control, what would it take for you to center your space around the most important relationship in your life? It takes some rearranging, but He’s worth the fuss. 

*I’m currently reading Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth E Bailey.


JL McCarthy

March 18, 2016