IVP - Andy Unedited - Why the Christmas Story Bothered Me

December 17, 2014

Why the Christmas Story Bothered Me

The Christmas story always bothered me.

It just never made sense. No, not the virgin birth. Not the angels singing to shepherds. Not the star in the sky. Not the wise men.

No, it was the part about there being no room in the inn. It never made sense. Middle Eastern hospitality is legendary. Strangers, travelers, those in need--you can count on the deeply ingrained culture of showing generosity and graciousness to those who need a meal or a warm bed.

They would never, open hearts.jpgever turn away a pregnant woman--especially a woman who was a distant relative visiting her ancestral home in Bethlehem. Never. It wouldn't happen.

Enter Ken Bailey and chapter one of Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. The Greek word usually translated as "inn" is better rendered as "guest room" as the NIV does.

Middle Eastern peasant homes were one large room though sometimes a guest room or mother-in-law room was attached. But since there was no room in the guest room, the owners of the house did the only sensible thing--they welcomed Mary and Joseph into the main house.

The main room of the house was typically divided with a smaller ground floor level and a larger level raised a couple feet. Peasants would bring their animals into the lower level of the house at night for two reasons--to keep the animals safe from thieves and to provide warmth for the family sleeping on the upper level when it was cold.

Cut into the floor of the upper level where it meets the lower level was (wait for it) a manger. A place for hay to feed the animals.

Some years ago as I was explaining this to a friend at church, her eyes got huge. "That's the kind of house I grew up in!" Her family had been missionaries among peasants in Syria. You can still find such homes there today.

If you are looking for a Christmas play that accurately reflects what really happened that night in Bethlehem, Bailey's Open Hearts in Bethlehem is the perfect option. It transforms a story of "no room in the inn" to one of wondrous welcome and generosity.

Posted by Andy Le Peau at December 17, 2014 1:31 PM Bookmark and Share


Andy, Having read some version of Bailey's work (an article, I believe, not a book) this is the scenario I used in my 1992 novel "Mary's Journal" (Zondervan), a fictional diary of Mary the Mother (at the time a winner of a--not the--CT critic's award in the fiction category. The hardcover was most wonderfully illustrated, as if Mary had doodled in the margin, and also jacket art by Joe DeVelasco, remember his work?

Comment by: evelyn bence at December 17, 2014 2:01 PM

You always were ahead of the curve!

Comment by: Andy Le Peau at December 17, 2014 2:11 PM

Comments are closed for this entry.

Get Email Updates

You'll get an email whenever a new entry is posted to Andy Unedited

Blog Favs

Subscribe to Feeds

Got a Book Idea?

Please follow our submissions guidelines. We cannot respond to book proposals or inquiries within the context of this blog.

Get to Know IVP

book cover"Some publishers tell you what to believe. Other publishers tell you what you already believe. But InterVarsity Press helps you believe," says J. I. Packer. Andy Le Peau and Linda Doll describe how this came to be a hallmark of InterVarsity Press in Heart. Soul. Mind. Strength, an anecdotal history spanning the sixty years from the founding of IVP in 1947 to the present day.