"I am here to tamper with a masterpiece, or better said, to share with you a rather different reading of Luke 2:1-7, one solidly grounded in the facts, but nowhere represented in Christmas carols and pageants. I must tell you that I have heard endless sermons on how there was 'no room in the inn' and how it was typical of a cold, fallen world to cast the holy family and Jesus out into the cold, and so on, often preached with great fervor but producing no ferment at all.Ben Witherington provides a really interesting interpretation of on of the staples of the Christmas story. When one remembers all the sermons preached on how there was no room at the inn, and that the baby Jesus was born in a barn with all the animals and so forth, it is really difficult to even consider an alternative interpretation. You just don't mess with tradition. Or hymns. Or anything else that people have gotten used to.
We've heard it countless times before. We've all been inoculated with a slight case of Christmas, preventing us from getting the real thing, or in this case, from reading these texts in a more historical way. The problem with the Christmas-pageant version is, this is not at all likely to be what Luke intends to tell us in this much beloved and belabored Christmas tale."
But Ben Witherington makes a good case for Jesus being born not in a stranger's barn, but in the home of a kinsman (after all, Joseph had relatives in Bethlehem). Considering the architecture of the day, it would not be unexpected that the family's livestock would be located at the back of a house built onto a cave opening. If Joseph and Mary were late getting into town, then the guest rooms might have been taken already.
Why not? Certainly much of the "theology" that is portrayed by Christmas carols is a little suspect from the nature of the tree travelers who brought the gifts, to the timing of the event. This more modern discussion of the events does nothing to minimize the Incarnation. It really doesn't change on central fact of the birth of Jesus and that was it was to an ordinary woman who was chosen to be the human mother of the Son of God. And considering another interpretation of Scripture than what we all grew up with does not erase the wonder we feel at Christmas that God, in His love for us, would become flesh and live with us as a human.