The Birth of Christ–Out in the Cold Stable or In a warm House?
(The guestchamber in those days was a room adjacent to the house for the lodging of guests. These days some people have Guest-houses, while others may have Guest-rooms. The Greek word this is translated from is used 1 other time in Luke and once in Matthew. In both instances it is translated “guestchamber” in the King James Version: Mark 14:14
And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?
KJV; Luke 22:11
And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? KJV)
Joseph and Mary were not out in the cold with no place to go. They were at a friend’s house or at the very least a friend of a friend. They were like royalty, direct descendants of King David and they were in the city of David. They didn’t just arrive but had been there at least a few days already . Anyone would have been glad to have them in their home, let alone the fact Mary was in her 9th month of pregnancy. John Schoendeit of Spirit and Truth Fellowship adds this light on the subject:
“Another thing we must understand about houses in the East is that it was common for people to bring their animals, such as the family donkey, a couple of milk goats, or a cow or two, into the home at night. Such animals were very valuable, and the people brought them in at night to keep them from being stolen and to protect them from harm. Also, the animals added heat to the house, which would be very welcome on chilly nights. The woman in Endor who King Saul visited at night had her calf in the house with her: “And the woman had a fat calf in the house” (1 Sam. 28:24, KJV).  Of course, if the family were shepherds or herdsmen, they would not bring the whole flock or herd into the house, but would have a family member or hired guard watch them in the field, just as the shepherds were in the field on the night Jesus was born.
It was a common practice to raise the floor of the part of the house where the family lived, and keep the animals in an area that was a little lower.  Knowing this helps us understand Luke 2:6 and also where that idea that Jesus was born in a stable came from. Jesus was laid in a manger, which is an open trough, box, or bin, where the animal food was placed so the animals could feed easily. In Western society, mangers are in barns or stables, so if Jesus was laid in a manger it made sense he was born in a stable. However, in Eastern society, where the animals grazed outside during the day and were brought into the house at night, the manger was in the house. Having the manger in the house kept the animals calm and contented in the tighter quarters of the house, just as many modern farm animals have a feeding trough in their stall stay calm and content.
Everyone knew the manger was in the house, so when the Bible says that Jesus was laid in a manger “because” there was no space in the guest room, any Easterner would understand perfectly that the guest room was full so Jesus was born in the main part of the house where the family and animals stayed. Sometime after his birth he was safely placed in the manger, which would have been filled with clean hay or straw and would have been the perfect size for him. This was not to demean him in any way, but to care for him. The protective walls of the manger kept him safely guarded and away from busy feet and a bustling household, as well as warm and protected from any drafts or cold air in the home.
Another thing that helps us understand the Christmas story is understanding Eastern hospitality. In the East, guests were given special treatment of all kinds, including behavior that seems very extreme to us. For example, in the record of Lot and the two strangers, Lot would have handed over his own daughters to the mob before surrendering his guests (Gen. 19:8). Similarly, the people with whom Joseph and Mary stayed would never displace their guests from the guest room, but instead would inconvenience themselves, graciously bringing the couple into their living space.”