Christmas, once again! It's interesting to read all the many different versions concerning the circumstances of Jesus' birth. Many Bible scholars offer alternatives to one specific, always repeated detail: the stable.
Even those who don't follow Jesus know the story. When Joseph and Mary arrive in Bethlehem to be counted in the census, they find a crowded city, with no available rooms. The innkeeper directs them to a stable, where, among the cows and sheep. Mary gives birth to her son, wraps him in a blanket, and places him in a hay-filled manger -- a trough for feeding the animals.
The idea of the inn likely comes from translation of the Greek word kataluma, which has several meanings -- one of which is "inn." The word can also mean a furnished, upper story room in a home -- what we would call a guestroom. In fact, the same word is used in scripture to refer to the "upper room," the place where Jesus gathered the disciples for his last supper with them.
Many believe that when the couple arrived at the home of one of Joseph's Bethlehem relatives, they found that the upper story rooms (including the guestroom) are filled. But calling the place where they retired a "stable" is not quite accurate.
We think of a stable as a barn. But at the time of Jesus' birth, animals were often brought into the home to keep them warm overnight. In a two-story home, that room would be on the lower level. There may, indeed, have been a manger filled with straw -- a warm place to lay a child on a cold night. Animals may, indeed, have been in the room.
Then again... Jesus may not have been born in a building at all, but in a cave, as other scholars believe.
One of the great blessings of the Bible is that much of what scripture says is open to more than one interpretation. History does not provide tidy, definitive answers to most of our questions regarding the events recorded there. Yet these are the stories that all Christians share, the stories that endure. Stories that inform our belief. Stories in which we seek to find ourselves. Stories with truths that apply to our lives as sons and daughters of God, followers of Jesus. Stories like his birth.
What is the "true" story? We can't know the facts. But the more important question is, why has the story endured? Why do we repeat, each Christmas, the familiar but perhaps inaccurate details of Jesus' birth? The parents turned away because there is no room. The humble birth in a stable, surrounded by farm animals. The wooden, hay-filled manger as the baby's first bed.
The story endures because it speaks so many truths about our lives.
We, too, may turn Jesus away from entering our hearts because there is "no room" for him in our lives.
We are comforted by and identify with our Savior's humble beginnings, because we, too, have been humbled -- by our circumstances, by events in our lives, by our own shortcomings.
Just like Mary and Joseph, we, too, experience the joy and promise of birth, the miracle of new life, a miracle that happens every moment, every day!
The truth -- the real truth -- is that in the story of Jesus' birth, we are given a Savior who shares in our humanity.
A baby boy of humble beginnings, who will experience our same joys and sorrows.
A man who will become, for us, the perfect model of love, peace, joy and self-sacrifice.
A man who will suffer the anguish of separation from God and the torment of the cross-to show us that there is more to this life than any joy or sorrow we may experience.
So, welcome to the world once again, baby Jesus. What matters is not how and where you came... only that you do come, again and again and again.
Harry and I wish you and yours Christmas blessings.
Lou Ann Karabel