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Dec 24, 2022

No Room in the Guest Room

Passage: Luke 2:4-7

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Advent 2022

Keywords: shepherds, room, innkeeper, guests, relatives


One of the wonderful themes in the Advent story is how much the seemingly insignificant people matter to God. On this meaningful day, we take a look at a few people in the Christmas story who had brushes with the Savior of the world and what they can teach us about our encounters with the incarnate Lord Jesus.


No Room in the Guest Room

Christmas Eve 2022


Christmas-time can be challenging when it comes to things like travel, lodging and relatives, can’t it?  The funny reality is, it’s been that way from the very first Christmas. 

How many of us have childhood memories of distant relatives crammed into our normally spacious house over the holidays?  Or perhaps we were the ones who displaced grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins from their beds?

ILL:  I have memories of one such Christmas chaos here in Spokane where I got displaced to a cot by Grandma who got my bed.  But that wasn’t as bad as my sister who got put out onto the summer sleeping porch in the dead of winter to give way to some rarely-seen cousins from CA.  

            That’s actually an experience very near to the one we celebrate tonight with Jesus.  According to the biblical text in Luke 2, it probably played out a bit differently than what we’ve traditionally been led to believe. 

            Without going into too much detail, the mental image that many of us may have for the birthplace of Jesus being a farmyard barn attached to a crowded Inn in some dark side street of Bethlehem may not be what actually happened at all.  It was probably much closer to our crowded Christmas memories of extended family reunions.  Just look at the record from Luke:

Luke 2-- So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. 

Notice a couple of things.

  1. “While they were there….” They probably hadn’t just rolled into town.  “While” is a conjunction of time.  Mary & Joseph had probably arrived a few days before, found some distant relatives willing to take them in and were camping out in their “living room” floor.  (Before you write me off as a heretic, let me explain a bit further.)
  2. Our whole notion of “no room in the INN” comes from one word in Luke 2:7 (NIV)—“…and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” The Greek literally reads, “…because there was no room for them in the guest room/inn.”  (Gk: kataluma).  Luke also uses a different word completely to talk about inns (Gk: panda-jaion; parable of the Good Sam in Luke 10:34.)  Furthermore, Luke uses the same word used here in Luke 22:11 when Jesus told his disciples to go prepare the Last Supper in a certain place and tell the owner,  “The Teacher says to you, ‘Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’”  So the lexical and grammatical evidence leans to a guest room in a home rather than a wayside inn.  Bethlehem was not on a normal trade route. It is doubtful there would have even been a motel-type inn in the village. 
  3. “But what about the manger,” some of you are thinking? Well, most village homes were constructed somewhat like our homes with a garage in the front of the house.  Only in their case, it was a stable where the ox or donkey might be kept on the lower level.  Up a bit from the stable would be the living quarters.  Archeologists have even found stone feed troughs on the front edge of the living areas, next to the livestock areas.
  4. Hospitality in the middle-eastern Hebrew culture of the day demanded that people entertain strangers let alone distant relatives. It is highly unlikely that an about-to-deliver young mom would have been so rudely treated and rejected by every possible relative in Bethlehem.

But, here's, I think, the point of the reference to “no room in the guest room.  Somebody wouldn’t make room that night for the birth of God into human experience.  And most likely it was some relative!

The wonder of that night is that the King of the Universe, the very God who created this incomprehensibly vast universe with billions of galaxies containing trillions of stars, was so amazingly humble that he embraced a feed-trough with rough hay for a crib rather than demanding a palace with silk bedding…or even the one guest room in the house of some equally-poor relatives.

            Any number of other people could have been laying claim to that one room with just a little privacy the holy family could really have used.

  • Maybe Mary & Joseph deferred to some elder in the clan.
  • Maybe there was a wealthier, more demanding ‘Uncle Laban’ who chose to throw his weight around.
  • Maybe the home owners had had enough of guests that year and just decided to keep it for themselves.
  • Maybe everyone decided they’d put all the other kids and babies in that room to sleep while the parents hung out in the living room.

Whatever the reasons, the fact that there was still “no room in the guest-room” (or “inn”, if you still insist) has a lot to say to us this Christmas and any day of the year. 

            SO much can get in the way of making room for Jesus these days.  The reasons are probably very similar to the reasons someone didn’t give Jesus his rightful place in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. 

  • Our PLANS & EXPECTATIONS: Clearly someone hadn’t anticipated pregnant Mary from Nazareth needing their  And they weren’t willing to change their plans. They had the ‘reservation’ or room first! But had they been longing for the appearing of the Messiah as so many others like Anna or Simeon or the Magi in the Christmas story were, they would have joyfully given way to the Christ child.    

APP:  how often are we unwilling to change our plans to make room for Jesus?  Whether it is a career we want…or a lifestyle we’re striving for…or a relationship that is more important to us than the blessed presence of Jesus, IF the God of the universe moves into our lives, it’s going to mess with the plans and expectations we had before He showed up. Is there room for Jesus in my plans and expectations?   

  • Our PRIORITIES: Somebody in that overcrowded house had a convoluted set of priorities.  Maybe they valued their comfort more than the presence of Jesus. Maybe their own  schedule, their own peace and quiet took precedence over making room for Jesus.  Maybe maintaining their little corner of control or their preferred daily routine mattered more to them than Jesus’ presence. 
  • APP: They weren’t all that different from us.  How often do we choose lesser and inferior things to God’s presence?  How often do we demand our routine or schedule rather than giving way to some unplanned but God-ordained divine interruption? The very business of our lives becomes a priority to us.  So, we fill our nights with entertainment and our days with work, crowding out the quiet, hidden times God wants to meet with us in the reading of His Word…or the solitude of prayer… or the sacrifice of serving someone else? 

Whatever the reason for not making room for Jesus, they all come down to one thing:  me over God…self over the Savior…my pride over His presence.

            And that is really the message of Christmas:  is there room in our heart for Jesus?  THE most important room in the world… and THE one place God desires to inhabit more than anywhere in this entire universe is our HEARTS.  He will not demand we open the door.  He will not require us to recognize Him.  He will simply make His presence known…as He is tonight…and softly knock on the door of our souls.

            Is there room in your heart for Jesus tonight?  Have you allowed your soul to get so crowded, so selfish, so just ‘busy’ that you need to stop and invite Him to move in?  Take charge?  Clean out all the clutter and sin and take up residence in you?

            In the last book of the Bible, Revelation 3:20 (ESV), Jesus spoke these words to His church in an entire ancient city of Laodicea.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

            Make room for Jesus…tonight…right now!  Surrender… or re-surrender… your life to Him.  Ask him to take up residence in you.  Give him the best of your life—your soul, your priorities, your hopes and dreams.  Then get ready for the most amazing journey imaginable with God himself.