While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the guestroom. (Luke 2:6-7 CEB)
I am discovering this familiar text in a new translation - the Common English Bible. At the same time, I am journeying with so many of you through this Advent season in new ways with the help of our discussions around our Advent book - Honest Advent on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. There is such a striking difference between the more traditional story that claims Mary and Joseph found no place at an Inn versus they found no place in the guestroom. In Chapter 19 of our book, the author explores this point in such a fresh and intimate way - I had to share it with you this week.
“‘There was no room for them in the inn’ is possibly one of the most excavating reveals of this story and perhaps the most misunderstood.”
Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem for the Roman census, but they were not in a hurry. Luke’s gospel tells us, “while they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby,” meaning they were in Bethlehem for a while waiting for the baby to come in His own time. And they weren’t alone. In this ancient society, families stayed with family - especially pregnant ones. Because we know the complications that most likely existed for Mary (an unwed mother) and her fiancee Joseph would be dealing with around this pregnancy, understanding this translation helps us relate better to the knowledge that something was going on. I believe “no guest room available for them” not only alludes to that but excavates something deeply personal in us as well.
Interestingly, the way Jesus came into the world didn’t please everyone. He didn’t come through the traditional way that appeased the family and cultural standards. While it’s true that His incarnation was sung by a chorus of angelic hosts, His incarnation uncomfortably confronted many societal assumptions as well. And yet His incarnation was given a way, and beloved, your incarnation will be given a way too.
Your incarnation - the beginning of who you will become - may happen in the small town where no one expects anything like that to be birthed, but it will not go unnoticed by the heavenly hosts. One of the ways we can experience God-with-us presently is in the empathy that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph have for us, as seen through our incarnation emerging in the midst of a family dynamic. The story of Jesus’ incarnation did not come without complications, but God provided room - a room - and the Giver of your incarnation will provide room for you too. May you receive thanks for the gift of your incarnation.