Time to return your nativity set?

Time to return your nativity set?
Photo by Dan Kiefer / Unsplash

Jesus is better understood to have entered the world, celebrated by so much extended family that the only room for him was right out in the open - a far cry from a lowly stable.

The birth of Jesus most likely happened in the middle of a bustling home rather than in the remote barn of an inn. The Greek word katalyma, originally misconstrued as "inn," really points to a "guest room." It is the same word for the type of guest room where Jesus and his disciples held their last supper (Mark 14:14; Luke 22:11).


Figure 1.3 from Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes shows the typical layout of a typical ancient home in Palestine.

We are told that Mary gives birth to Jesus and then lays him in a manger because there was no room for them in the katalyma (Luke 2:7).

As people migrated back to their hometowns for the census, they would have looked up their relatives to stay with. By the time Mary and Joseph arrive, the guest room was apparently full, so they received regular accommodations with the host family.

The significance of this is that Jesus' birth did not occur in an obscure barn or off in a discrete corner of a guest room. The gospel kicked off with an entry by Jesus into the center of activity, not to be hidden away - a powerful sign of what was to come.

There was no hiding God breaking into history.