No Room in the Guestroom

Last Sunday (December 18th) I attended my wife’s Sunday School class (New Hope) at  Arborlawn UMC.  James Nader (the father of two of our pastors – Joseph and John) is the teacher.  He does an excellent job and on the rare occasions I am able to go with my wife I thoroughly enjoy both the lessons and the class members.  Sunday’s lesson was on the birth narratives from Luke (using Ellsworth Kalas’s Christmas from the Backside).  It focused on the innkeeper and the famous line from Luke 2:7 – “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.”  I was following the lesson in my Bible which is the new CEB (Common English Bible) translation.  What caught my eye was the way the CEB translated verse 7 – “She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.” Is it guestroom or inn?  The difference is intriguing.  NRSV says “inn.”  The NIV says “guest room.”  The KJV says “inn.”  I confess I was not aware of the disparity.  I am not even sure it makes much difference.  And yet . . . a guestroom implies intimacy. We have a guest bedroom in our house.  When you are there, you’re an honor guest, cherished company. Cautiously, I am aware that we far too easily “villianize” the innkeeper (guestroom host?).  After all, to make room for the holy family, he or she would have had to kick someone else out.  A good case can be made that the innkeeper (guestroom host) did the best he or she could do.  Still, the translation “guestroom” lingers in my heart and mind.  Do I, do we, receive Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus has honored guests in our home this season? St. Ambrose remarks, “He had no other place in the inn, so that you may have many mansions in the heavens.  He, being rich, became poor for your sakes, that through his poverty you might be rich.  Therefore his poverty is our inheritance and the Lord’s weakness is our virtue.  He chose to lack for himself that he may abound for all.”  There is much to reflect upon and learn from each time we enter the drama of the Savior’s birth.  The very nature and character of God is revealed to us.  And, we . . . , we are invited (or is it challenged) to host the Lord in our homes.