The Innkeeper

“No room.” no-vacancy

Most of us have heard the story. The fabled innkeeper who turned away Mary and Joseph in their hour of need. The calloused man has become a staple in the Christmas story, though he’s never mentioned in the Bible.

No, really. The only Gospel that makes mention of there being ‘no room’ is Luke chapter two. Check it out:

and she gave birth to her Son, her firstborn; and she wrapped Him in [swaddling] cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no [private] room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7 AMP)

No innkeeper, only a stated fact. There was no room for them.

With Caesar Augustus wielding his power and demanding a census of the entire Roman world, anyone with family roots in Bethlehem would have been forced to go back to the tiny city. If there was more than one inn there, Mary and Joseph may have heard more than one resounding “no” that night. Slammed doors in their faces. Careless attitudes amid the press of scurrying people and shouting peddlers clogging the roads.

Get this…some scholars even disagree on what is meant by the word inn. We tend to think of it like a hotel. But what if the writer meant something different? I recently stumbled upon this information written by Todd Bolen that made me pause:

“The word translated as ‘inn’ is the word kataluma, which is used elsewhere by Luke and translated as ‘guest chamber’ or ‘upper room’ (Luke 22:11; cf. Mark 14:14)…The result of this mistranslation leads to a different understanding of the story. It’s not that Joseph and Mary were late to town, but it’s that they were rejected by their family. Clearly they had family members in town, as that was the reason they returned to Bethlehem for the census. That there was no room in the guest chamber for a pregnant woman indicates that they chose not to make room for this unwedded mother. The birth of Jesus in a room where animals lived suggest shame and rejection.” (


This puts a whole new spin on the birth of Jesus, doesn’t it? Rejected by His own, even before birth. The thought of what Mary and Joseph endured as a young couple pierces my heart. In times of desperation, we see the most despicable callousness of humanity, yet also stand in wonder at the sweetness of God’s grace and the gentle touch from the kindness of strangers.

Whether “No room” was the result of a stressed out innkeeper or judgmental family members, the result was the same…those who pushed Mary, Joseph and Jesus away missed out on the greatest blessing to ever sweep planet earth. If they only knew Who was coming…if they only knew there were shepherds trembling on a hillside, watching the heavens flood with angels proclaiming the Good News…if they only heard the sound of God filling the quiet room with a lusty cry. The Author of Life crying peace into the darkness. What beauty, what mind-bending astonishment.

Those who pushed Him away missed it all. This Christmas, you and I are in danger of doing the same.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in hanging the lights and rushing around to get all the shopping done, but ignore the homeless shelters. It’s far too convenient to plan our Christmas menu and fight the crowds at the grocery store than to give our time visiting someone who is lonely. It’s easier to check off our do-list than forgive the family member who hurt us so deeply.

“No room.” “No time.” “I’m tired.” “That person asking for help is different than me.” If we’re so busy doing things for Jesus that we can’t stop and lend a hand to the least of these, then we’ve missed Him.


34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father [you favored of God, appointed to eternal salvation], inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 I was naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me [with help and ministering care]; I was in prison, and you came to Me [ignoring personal danger].’ 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You as a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘I assure you and most solemnly say to you, to the extent that you did it for one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it for Me.’” (Matthew 25:34-40 AMP)

Don’t be an Innkeeper, keeping the love and light of Christ inside. True joy comes in giving yourself away. No slammed doors allowed.


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