Did ‘no room in the inn’ mean an ‘oversight’ in the plan of God? Was the Holiday Inn booked solid and God forgot to make reservations? I’ve asked these questions and wondered at why, when the Father had taken such care to fulfill every word of prophecy in the old Testament, did he not provide a better place for His son to be born? As we have told this story over and over in many different ways it appears that Joseph and Mary were left to depend on the mercy of an un-named inn keeper who happened to have an empty stable for them to give birth to the King of Kings! I was delighted to find the work of Cooper Abrams, who has given me some answers to my questions.
First, let’s look at the shepherds. This was not just any flock nor were these your average shepherds. These sheep were destined for Temple sacrifices and the shepherds who kept them were men who were specifically trained for this royal task by the Rabbis. It was their job to make sure that none of the animals were hurt, damaged, or blemished, and that each lamb exactly fulfilled the specifications for the Temple. It was their responsibility to proclaim, “This lamb is THE Lamb for the Passover celebration!” And being themselves under special Rabbinical oversight, they would strictly maintain a ceremonially clean stable for a birthing place. These shepherds customarily kept their flocks outdoors twenty-four hours a day every day of the year, but brought the ewes into the ‘birthing cave’ to deliver their lambs.
It was to these shepherds that the angels said that they would find the Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. The angels did not say which manger. But there was no need for the angels to give these shepherds directions to the birth place. When the angelic announcement came, they knew exactly where to go, as Luke 2 indicates, for the sign of a manger could only mean their manger! The Passover lamb had been born! Yes, this was not an overlooked detail, but instead a very strategic, ceremonially clean, prepared place for this lamb, the Son of God himself to be born!
So I invite you to put aside the images of smelly stables with donkeys and cows. Come rather to Migdal Eder, the Tower of the Flock just outside Bethlehem on the road to Jerusalem, where the lambs were born that would be offered as sacrifices in the Temple for the cleansing of sin.
Come and join the shepherds, not mere ignorant laborers but those charged with the care of the sacrificial lambs. Join these schooled men with knowledgeable teaching of the Scriptures and the Rabbis who knew at once where to find the one born to be Savior, Messiah and Lord.
Come and kneel with them as they examined this lamb and pronounced that He was without blemish or defect and was qualified to walk those three miles to Jerusalem and give his life as a Sacrifice on the Cross to take away your sins and mine.
This Christmas may we encounter the Lamb of God, without spot of Blemish! May we be like the shepherds who returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.