In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire should be registered. This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town. Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn son, and she wrapped him tightly in cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
- Luke 2:1-7
In almost every depiction of the Nativity, the Inn Keeper is portrayed as a burly, inhumane grump who denies poor little Mary and Joseph a place to lodge. In reality the Inn Keeper is probably undeserving of such a bad rap. The Christmas story begins with:
“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.”
- Luke 2:1-2
Caesar Augustus, born Gaius Octavius, is the original Caesar. As leader of the Roman Empire, it was important for him to fortify the financial backings of his empirical conquests. There is no better way to accomplish this than to issue a new census so taxes can be properly administered and collected.
The lyrics of the famous Christmas carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem, are very accurate in describing the small town. It was little. The population around Jesus’s birth would have likely numbered around 300. Can you imagine the impact of a mandated census? Mary and Joseph wouldn’t have been alone in their journey to Bethlehem. There would have been hundreds, if not more than a thousand, additional visitors to the tiny rural town. Additionally, most of those making the 70-mile journey would not have been pregnant like Mary.
When Joseph and Mary finally arrive there simply is no room for them. Everyone’s home is maxed out. The inn is booked up. The Inn Keeper was probably a nice guy who just didn’t have any space for Jesus.
You see, 2,000 years later, many of us are facing the same dilemma as the Inn Keeper. It’s not that we’re hostile to Jesus – we simply don’t have room for Him. We have no white space, or margin in our busy lives. Maxed out schedules, commitments, Netflix queues, and a thousand other things have filled up all the available space in our lives, and even our hearts.
During this Advent season, amid the hustle and bustle, make room for Jesus. Give Jesus some prime real estate and some prime time during this Holiday season. Not because you ought too, but because you want too.
What makes this detail in the Christmas story so significant is God knew the Inn would be full. This was no surprise at all to Heaven. The Messiah came, just as He was promised, without regard for the deserving and hospitable nature of mankind. He came knowing the world He entered would be so crowded, distracted and preoccupied that few would realize the King of Kings was in their presence. After all, these are exactly the people Jesus was coming for. He was coming to save them from themselves. He was coming to redeem and rescue people who needed Him. He came for us.