I just saw this posted over at Koinonia and had to share it:
We are used to Christmas plays and TV specials which feature Joseph and Mary being told “there is no room at the inn” by a burly looking innkeeper. As the birth of Jesus comes closer, they make the best of a bad situation and hunker down in a stable.
But were there really inns in Bethlehem at all?
“The ‘inn’ (katalyma) was probably not an ancient hotel with an innkeeper, since a small village like Bethlehem would not have had such accommodations. Luke uses a different Greek word in Luke 10:34 for a roadside inn (pandocheion).
The word katalyma normally means either a guest room in a private residence or a caravansary, an informal public shelter where travelers would gather for the night.
The most likely scenario is that Joseph and Mary were staying with relatives or friends and, because of crowded conditions, were forced to a place reserved for animals.”