A time and a place for everything: Day seven

A time and a place for everything: Day seven

Please enjoy today's reflection from our September-December issue of New Daylight.

A time and a place for everything

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Luke 2:1-7 (NRSV) 

Our faith is rooted in history. God intervenes in an unprecedented way, the Word made flesh. Luke locates time and place clearly and succinctly: the only problem being that Quirinius was governor of Syria from AD6, but Jesus was born before Herod’s death in 4BC. Possibly Quirinius, in a different capacity, initiated the census which was then completed under his governorship.

The fact that Mary and Joseph travel together implies they are effectively
married, though describing her as ‘engaged’ or ‘betrothed’ indicates that they have not consummated the marriage.

But the overcrowded inn? The much-maligned innkeeper? Those Christmas cards showing isolated barns with mystified oxen looking on? More likely, given the Jewish reputation for hospitality and the fact that Bethlehem is Joseph’s ‘home town’, is that this owes much to dubious translation. The word for ‘inn’ also means a guest room. Like a Devon longhouse, this room would be at one end, while at the other end, on a slightly lower level, would be the area where animals were housed. It is probable that, in the event of the guest room being already taken, Joseph and Mary would be welcomed in to share the living area, using the manger from the animals’
area as a cradle. Not to welcome a descendant of David in Bethlehem, the
city of David, would deeply shame the whole community.

Lord, as we engage with text and translation, help us to discern your truth.

Find our New Daylight Bible reading notes