Summary: Story of Joseph and Mary arriving in Bethlehem.
The typical story we hear repeated is:
“It’s about 2000 years ago, the evening of December 25. Mary rides into Bethlehem on a donkey after a long trip, urgently needing to deliver her baby. Although it’s an emergency, all the mean innkeepers turn them away. So they deliver baby Jesus in a smelly old stable with animals standing around watching. Then angels sing to the shepherds. Afterwords, they all join three kings with camels in worshiping the quiet, newborn.” Baby Jesus gets a small fortune in gifts from the three kings.
The problem is, this story may be misleading us in some ways. The events surrounding the birth have been retold so many times and in so many ways—in plays, poetry, books and movies—that most people have a distorted view of the true events. The only accurate record is found in the Holy Bible, God’s Word.
I'm old, so I remember Sgt Joe Friday on the old Dragnet TV show. Do you? He would say “just the facts Ma'am”. Today with the Critical Analysis of the Bible, whether we agree with them or not, make us think. Make us see things in a different way based on additional Manuscripts of the Bible, increased discovery of information and just able to know more about the times of the Bible because of these things and more.
The only problem is, “just the facts” make for a boring read and colorless story telling. It would be like reading the report that a Police Officer wrote up. So, therefore, the embellishments of the story.
So they go on a trip of 80 miles to be counted so that they can be taxed by Rome. The Bible doesn't say Mary rode on a donkey that was lead all the way by Joseph. But it would make since that they would have a donkey. Joseph was a carpenter and wouldn't have left his tools there at his home. He couldn't leave them at home because they would go missing for sure if he did. So a donkey would be needed to carry the tools of his trade and Mary at times.
One wonderful movie showed the two traveling - alone. Out in the wilderness coming into a city only for supplies. However, they probably traveled in a caravan for safety purposes (bandits would have surely robbed them and maybe murdered them). It would offer companionship and to get help from one another when necessary. An army can travel 20 miles a day, set up camp, cook and get to sleep in one day. That would make the trip 4 days. But as I understand it a caravan with pregnant women, old people, children and men caring for animals and broken carts couldn't possibly move that fast. I’m sure that Joseph would feel more comfortable traveling with other men and Mary would feel more safe with other women around since she was pregnant.
When they arrived in Bethlehem they went to a relatives home hoping to stay in their guest chamber; the kataluma (their Inn). It was the custom at the time and there wasn't really an Inn/hotel systems like we have today. If a village had something like that “the Inn” would be a bug infested brothel.
The orginal word for “Inn” used only one other time in the New Testament (Luke 22:11 and the parallel passage, Mark 14:14), it was the place where Jesus observed the Last Supper with His disciples. Here, Dr. Luke gave additional information about the kataluma or the Guest Room or Inn. He said it was a furnished large upper story room within a private Jerusalem house. The kataluma of the last night of Jesus’ earthly ministry was the “upper room” or Inn/Guest Chamber. (3)
When Joseph and Mary arrived at their relative home the Kataluma was full so they had to stay in the lower room of their relative home. Back in Bible times the lower room provide a place to cook their food and eat it. Also it offered safety for their animals from the cold and thefts. On the wall would be a place to store hay.
So Mary wasn't alone when Jesus was born. Surely women that had been through child birth wouldn't have left a young teenager to have her baby alone with a young man.
Sgt Joe Friday “just the facts Ma'am” doesn't ring true as boring or colorless to me. Actually the facts seems to make it a more interesting and believable story when understood within the confines of Biblical times.
Whether we stick to the facts or as in stories and movies that embellish them the FACT remains: Our Lord and Savior came into our earthly world as truly human and truly divine son of God. That he would be our substitution when he died on the cross for our Salvation. We now can be forever cleans from our sins and filled by the Holy Spirit and move into a wonderful relationship with our God because of it.