And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:7 ESV
There was no place or no room in the inn. We might have a mental picture of this inn which is mentioned in this verse. We would not expect anything like a modern hotel such as the Holiday Inn but we have an idea of a fairly basic form of overnight accommodation which would be at least warm and comfortable and would certainly include a bed for the night. Breakfast and other meals might well be included for a payment.
The reality is very different. Frederick W. Farrer in his book "Life of Christ" has a description of an inn which was then known as a 'khan.'
A khan is a low structure, built of rough stones, and generally only a single story in height. It consists for the most part of a square enclosure, in which the cattle can be tied up in safety for the night, and an arched recess for the accommodation of travellers. The leewan, or paved floor of the recess, is raised a foot or two above the level of the court-yard. A large khan ...... might contain a series of such recesses, which are, in fact, low small rooms with no front wall to them. They are, of course, perfectly public; everything that takes place in them is visible to every person in the khan. They are also totally devoid of even the most ordinary furniture. The traveller may bring his own carpet if he likes, may sit cross-legged upon it for his meals, and may lie upon it at night. As a rule, too, he must bring his own food, attend to his own cattle, and draw his own water from the neighbouring spring. He would neither expect nor require attendance, and would pay only the merest trifle for the advantage of shelter, safety, and a floor on which to lie.
However, the Bible records that even this very basic accommodation was not available to the pregnant mother and her husband. So they had to be content with staying outdoors in the open courtyard which was, of course, shared with animals such as camels, mules and horses. It would be well-nigh impossible to provide any form of basic hygiene such as we would insist on for the birth of a baby. Comfort was totally out of the question. Privacy was also lacking. The stench of the animal dung and urine would permeate the air. There would be constant lowing and braying of the animals who would not take kindly to sharing their space with humans.
This is a picture of abject poverty. This was how the Son of God chose to come into this world. There is no record of any of the other travellers experiencing any pangs of guilt and offering to vacate their covered space in the khan to allow this woman who was about to give birth some form of shelter and comfort. Instead of a cradle, they had to be content with a manger which would probably be made of stone and would be totally unhygienic as the tongues of animals had licked the stone. Our Lord did not have any of the basic comforts which we take for granted with a newborn baby. So Mary wrapped him in 'swaddling bands' to keep the newborn child warm.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. ( 2 Corinthians 8:9). For Christ to be born in the most palatial home this world could provide would still have been a major stoop from the splendour of the heavenly realm from which He came. He had to come down to the poverty of earth so that we could experience the riches of His salvation and the wealth of heaven.
And yet, in Scotland today, we will celebrate this amazing example of God's grace by over-indulgence and rampant selfish materialism. We will probably eat too much and, in many cases, drink too much. We might even get ourselves into debt in order to provide the latest toy or gadget for our children who have already more toys than they can comfortably play with. After Christmas, we will get on to eBay to get rid of the unwanted gifts we have accumulated on December 25th when we are claiming to celebrate the birth of the Son of God in desperate poverty.
Scotland has no room for the Saviour. Have you crowded him out of your life? Have you made sure that your life is so packed with your work or your entertainment that there is no room or no time for Jesus?
We will only experience the spiritual wealth He is offering us, when we begin to grasp the true meaning of the Christmas story. God came into this earth as a baby so that we could have our sins forgiven by His death on the cross and know the reality of LIFE from heaven through His salvation.