Most Western homes sport a Christmas Tree this time of the year, whether put up in Advent or at Midnight Christmas Eve, to wait out the 12 days until the Epiphany when the Three Kings came bearing gifts to the place where Jesus lay.
St Matthew’s Gospel tells us that the child was in a house by this time though Luke’s record findshim in the manger laying on the hay.
It is the scene in the Stable, so familiar to us today, which you can read about through the link beneath the image. The story comes from 1 Celano – the First Life of St. Francis. Before the 13th Century the concept of a representation of the nativity scene was unheard of, and quite honesty there is no reason to expect that there would have been. However its coming to exist has coloured our views of Jesus’ birth and origins ever since.
There are references to ‘ the Poor Christ enter in’and ‘mean and lowly’ ‘no crib for a bed’ yet all of these our caroling are based on our European concepts of Stable, manger, etc.
It seems rather odd that Joseph of the House of David should have gone to Bethlehem for the census and yet none of his friends or relatives found it in their hearts to board the young couple and the about to be born child. Joseph’s kin would have been well known to everyone and by extention Joseph too. No we have allowed our eyes to be coloured by muddy English Barns or even Australian Cow Sheds, at the very best delightful seeming paintings of that above.
The Inn inwhich there was no room was more than likely a two roomed affair with the guests in the front and the family and animals sharing the space behind. Whoever this was, very likely a relative had invited the young couple to share the family space and the baby was placed in one of the mangers which would be set into the floor. Not alone with the ox and Ass but with the family in the family’s personal space.