Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Better than the Inn

This from a Christmas letter I received:
In his book, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes, Kenneth Bailey unpacks some of the cultural nuances of the Christmas narrative. According to Bailey, the setting for Christ's birth was probably not a cold and lonely stable but rather a warm and bustling peasant home.

Bailey theorizes that this misunderstanding may have originated in a Western tendency to associate a "manger" with a barn or stable. He also speculates that Western readers' unfamiliarity with strict Middle Eastern codes of hospitality helped perpetuate the assumption that when Mary and Joseph looked for "a place to stay," they appealed to a local commercial inn and not a private home.

Bailey suggest that the Greek word for "inn" in Luke 2:7 probably more accurately refers to a "guest room." A lack of space in the guest room would have given the family no other choice but to invite Mary and Joseph into the middle of their personal living space - an area adjacent to where the household livestock were kept.
It's a thought: Jesus born not in a lonely stable, but welcomed into the chaotic midst of the most intimate family spaces. If God is not (as too many would have it) splendid isolation, but primordial love itself, the eternally differentiated trinity in whom there "is no inward, unrelated gaze, no stillness prior to relation" (185), he must have felt right at home.