By Chaplain (Col) Stephen W. Leonard, USA, Ret.

“And she gave birth to her first born Son and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7

The simple Christmas story from the Gospel historian, Dr. Luke, is either believed, ignored, or doubted. Those who doubt throw many skeptical barbs as to why the story is merely fanciful fiction. Yet why, all over the world (even Turkey (Muslim) and Thailand (Buddhist)) for many centuries, do nativity scenes appear during the Advent season? Millions of miniature creches are sold today in stores in cities and towns in so many nations. It may be doubted by some and ignored by others, but there is much of humanity who believes what happened at Bethlehem 2000 years ago. Jesus was born.

Skeptics throw many doubting arrows at the simply told story. Not the least being the virgin birth of Christ. And the visit of the shepherds. Or the visit of the Magi. And what about the slaughter of the 2 years old, and less infant boys? Or even if the entire Nativity story is a myth.

The Bible’s story of the first Christmas is very concisely expressed. No verbosity here whatsoever. Perhaps it is why the Lukan narrative is so easily memorized. No involved explanation of why Mary even went with Joseph on this trip at a time when she was so ready to give birth. And when there was no humanly prepared place to give birth if and when the Baby began to come. There were so many unknowns. Didn’t they really know many others had come to Bethlehem also for reasons of taxation in their hometown? Places of accommodation would therefore be in short supply.

The story is simply told with no complicated explanations, though you certainly could expect them. Only what the Holy Spirit determined was absolutely pertinent is told. Perhaps factors that would bother you and me did not worry or even enter Joseph’s and Mary’s minds. They had the sure evidence of angels speaking to them, guiding them. Do you not think they believed God was in the mix, God would provide the particulars? If there was no room in the Inn, God would direct them to the very place He wanted His Son to be delivered.

The beginning of Mary’s labor most likely caught Joseph and Mary off guard. Not God. They must have thought they had more time. The Inn could not accommodate them for a birth. The innkeeper referred a stable. Most likely, the stable was a cave quite near the Inn. God actually planned for His Son to be born there. And so He was.

The animals warmed up the enclosure. The hay provided soft bedding. The manger used for a crib. The swaddling strips of cloth meant for Passover lambs for the Temple provided baby clothes for the Infant. Mary provided milk and nurture. Joseph provided protection. All that was needed, God provided through all the means at his disposal.

That the Inn had no room was not a problem to God, but rather the perfect plan. The stable was not only sufficient; it was the chosen-by-God-place of delivery. It was certainly unique to the birth of a King. The animal observers were creation’s best witnesses. And the shepherds were the first worshipers, along with the happy parents. 

So the no-room-at-the-inn participants brought Jesus into humanity’s world from the courts of heaven to a lowly animal stable. This was called by Philippians 2 “emptying himself” and “taking the form of a servant” that he might “be born in the likeness of man.” But he was also “without sin,” the very reason for the virgin birth, in that original sin would not be passed on to Jesus through Joseph, His presumed-by-the-world father. Rather, God Himself, in the person of the Trinity’s Holy Spirit, was “Father” with Mary, His mother, in bringing forth Jesus, the long-promised Messiah and the sinless, perfect Lamb of God.

Though born at Bethlehem 21 centuries ago, He is your Messiah, the anointed, the long-promised One, your Savior. Though He died on a cross so long ago, He personally bore your sin, and died for your atonement. Your pardon by God is due to Jesus being your personal substitute! Your King is coming again to take you to Himself. You are assured by His own Word that you will be with Him forever. Hallelujah! No room at the inn is neither your problem nor God’s.


“Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,

The little Lord Jesus, lay down His sweet head,

The stars in the sky look down where He lay,

The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.”

(1st verse of what has been called Luther’s Cradle Hymn, author unknown, “Away In a Manger, 1883)

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