No Vacancy

The housing market is insane, apartment rents are sky high, sub-leases are practically unheard of…how can that be? I have friends who have put offers on houses and put 6-15% above asking price and they were outbid! Gone are the days of putting in an offer and having the owner accept or counter the offer. Right now, you make a bid, and pray you are the highest bidder! Apartments that were going for $1K/mo are now around $1.5K/mo. Crazy! Even vacation rentals are so booked up that you are very likely to hear “no vacancy” if you are trying to book anytime in the next year.

A no vacancy situation can also arise if the population of your town suddenly explodes because of an event coming to town. Atlanta experienced this during the Olympics in 1996. Hotels and homes were incredibly difficult to come by, so the neon “NO VACANCY” sign was a common sight. Back when Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem for the census that was ordered by Ceasar Augustus, it may not have been unusual for sojourners coming to their hometowns to be counted for tax purposes to knock on the doors of local homes to ask if there was room for them to stay. Scholars say that when the Bible addresses there being “no room for [Mary and Joseph} in the inn”, that the interpretation of the word used for inn is kataluma which implies hospitality in a private house as opposed to a public hotel.

Joseph, in town for the counting, likely went door to door looking for someone, anyone, to let him and his very pregnant betrothed, stay with them. We often refer to pregnant women as radiant, or beautiful as they carry their children. These same women also experience times of nausea, hormone shifts, sleep-deprived angst and/or discomfort which can put them on edge. We picture Mary as a demure, sweet, soft-spoken woman, and she probably was. However, she was not only pregnant, but she also had been traveling for several days, was in, or close to, labor, and was likely a little freaked out cuz she was having her first baby – and there was nowhere to stay! Joe, the doting, kind, dutiful husband, was also a DUDE. In that time and culture, men didn’t help with the birthing, so he had cause to be a little anxious, as well. I picture him frantically banging on doors begging for someone to let them in!!!! Some kind soul’s wife likely said, “honey, either you let that poor couple in the room where our animals are, or you are going to sleep there tonite!” Of course, the fact that Mary and Joseph had both spoken with angels about this situation and God was walking this journey with them gave them the peace of God as their solace, but they were still human. They didn’t know how this was all going to go down.

Vacancies are tough when you need a room. We never know what circumstance has brought someone to a place where they need hospitality. The people who opened their home to Mary and Joe surely had their lives changed. How could you not? The couple they let in had a baby in their house! Then a crusty band of shepherds knocked on the door talking of angels in heaven speaking to them about the Messiah being born, and then insisted that newest houseguest under their roof, was He. ANGELS spoke, SHEPHERDS came looking for the baby in OUR HOUSE…and he’s MESSIAH?! It at least had to get them thinking. And sharing. Apparently, the shepherds couldn’t shut up about it either because Luke 2:17-20 says, “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

This is a great challenge to us all to consider how we can be more hospitable, during this Christmas season and beyond…after all, the people who let Mary and Joseph stay in their home didn’t know it was Christmas! When we give room in our heart for those the Lord sends our way, we just may be entertaining someone sent straight from heaven who will change our lives in such a way that we will never be the same!

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