While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
There are layers of depth inside the Christmas story. We celebrate the birth of a baby during this time but everything in this story points to Jesus’s death and resurrection for you and me.
I have spent time in Israel and walked around archeological sites of ancient Judean homes during the time of Jesus. As we toured the site, our guide pointed out each room and what it was for. In addition to a room for living space for the family, the guestroom for visitors, and the kitchen, there would be a special room for the sacrificial animals. The sacrificial animals had to be kept in a safe secured place so they would remain immaculate for the sacrifice which would pay for the people’s sin for one year.
Our guide explained that the custom of the day for visitors in a town such as Bethlehem would be for them to be invited to stay for three days in someone’s guestroom (kataluma in the Greek). Even though kataluma is often translated as an “inn”, the bawdy hotels of the day would not have been fit for a young Jewish girl. Culturally it suggests that the guestroom (kataluma) in the Judean home where Joseph and Mary were staying was full and had no room for a woman in labor, so Mary was sent to the room for the sacrificial animals, the only room with the space for a pregnant woman to give birth.
In Luke 2:11-12, the angel tells the shepherds that “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
So Jesus was most likely born into the room with the sacrificial animals, wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in the feeding trough (manger) which resembled the tomb he would be burried in and rise from one day.
Thus, the sign to the shepherds was of a baby born to die, to pay the sins for humanity like the precious lambs in this room; but unlike the animals, the Divine Lamb’s blood would pay for their sins forever.
Jesus would bridge the gap between God and man and in the great unfair exchange take our unrighteousness for His righteousness, his well being for our sickness and his hope for our despair. The Christmas story really is the story of peace on earth and goodwill towards men. The peace is between God and us, and goodwill is God’s unmerited, unearned divine favor towards those who simply believe.