Despite pageants, stories and pictures to the contrary, there is no innkeeper mentioned in Scripture. Luke simply says it this way: “And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)
The image of a cold-hearted scoundrel turning away the holy family is a part of folklore, but not part of the scriptural record.
The "Bethlehem Inn" was not like the Holiday Inns of today. Usually, the first floor of an inn was a stable for the animals owned by the travelers who stayed in the rooms above. There was little privacy at normal times, probably none during the census. The most private area for people would be the "fragrant" space reserved for animals. It was an act of kindness for Mary and Joseph to be allowed to share of corner of the first floor to deliver their Child.
What other images are part of our memory, but have no foundation in Scripture? Do you picture Mary and Joseph traveling alone from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a hugely pregnant Mary astride a donkey, solitary figures in dark silhouette against a blue background? It's highly unlikely that they would be traveling alone. It wasn't part of the culture. Bands of robbers roamed the highways. The other family members of Joseph would also need to be in Bethlehem. How about Mary running to see Elizabeth? Again, unlikely that she would be traveling alone from Nazareth to Jerusalem. Speaking of travelers, the magi are often pictured alongside the shepherds in a nativity scene, when they actually arrived up to 2 years after the birth of Jesus.
Those are just a few of the images that inhabit our minds that are not based on truth. The Scripture is silent about some details, and so our ideas are formed by popular culture instead.
But there's plenty that Scripture is not silent about, and because of our familiarity with the story, we miss important messages. In Acts 17:11, Luke commended the noble character of the people of Berea when he said, "they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." I encourage you to search the Scriptures to see if what you believe is really true.
In your search, you will find nuggets there that will speak directly to your heart, words that you might have skimmed over in the past. I had this experience a few years ago when reading Luke 1. I knew that after her encounter with the angel Gabriel, Mary hurried to see her relative Elizabeth. I knew that when Elizabeth saw Mary, the baby "leaped in her womb", and Elizabeth declared Mary blessed and herself favored because of Mary's visit. And then, Mary began her "song". At least, I thought she did. I totally missed a little statement by Elizabeth that spoke volumes to me 2000 years later. "You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” Luke 1:45 NLT
Maybe it was reading in a new translation (something else I recommend), but seeing those words made me realize how blessed I am simply because I believe that God will do what He says. I need nothing else to be blessed. That verse was there all along, but I had skimmed over it for years.
As you read these 4 chapters (Matt. 1 & 2, Luke 1& 2) this year, in your quiet time or with your family, won't you ask God to reveal something new to you?
I wrote a poem called "Mary Had A Little Lamb" which concludes:
For God did speak to Mary
And He spoke to Joseph, too.
And if you listen with your heart
God will speak to you!!
May He speak to You anew this Christmas season!