In case you missed it, yesterday’s post introduced the idea of why the Birth of Jesus was a difficult one, and how we tend to smooth out the rough edges of the Christmas story. But ultimately, it’s a good thing for us that it was a difficult birth, because it helps us to see how to better live our difficult lives.

Yesterday’s post specifically addressed the element of scandal in Christ’s birth.

The Discomfort of Christmas

We know from Luke 2.1-7 that Joseph and Mary had traveled to Bethlehem because a census was being taken. Joseph had to return there because it was the city of his ancestors, and so that’s where they were when it was time for Jesus to be born.

As travelers, and especially as travelers expecting a birth, they needed a place to stay. It would have been ideal to stay with relatives, and considering that they were traveling to Joseph’s ancestral home, this is almost certainly what the young couple sought to do. 

Famously, we know that there was “no room at the inn” but it is unlikely that this is a reference to the first century equivalent to the Hilton; rather, the Greek word kataluma generally refers to a small upper room in a private dwelling that was used for showing hospitality to guests. In addition to this guest room, the main portion of the house would be divided into the living area and a separate compartment where animals might be kept, especially overnight.[1]

In the Nativity story, there was no room for Joseph and Mary to stay in their relatives’ guest room (perhaps because other family members were already there), and so they stayed in the main portion of the house instead with the host family and also likely with animals as well.

This perhaps seems nicer than being born in a barn, but make no mistake: the King of kings was born in humble circumstances, in a crowded cottage in a backwater village, surrounded by the smells of livestock. Not a comfortable place.

Discomfort in Our Lives

Just like we try to smooth over the discomfort in the Birth of Jesus, a lot of times we try to do that in our lives as well.

I believe the Bible teaches that God wants a lot of things for your life. He wants you to be saved, he wants you to holy, he wants you to be joyful (which is different than you being “happy”, but that’s a post for a different day); I don’t think that God wants you to be comfortable.

Comfort is a big part of what we want—a nice warm house, nice things, the latest technology to make life easier, relationships with our friends and families that make us feel good, nice vacations and lots of money set aside for retirement, sermons that put a smile on our face and don’t call us to sacrifice—we like comfort, but God doesn’t call us to be comfortable.

If you take the teachings of Jesus seriously, they don’t lead to a comfortable life. A fulfilling life? Yes. A purposeful life? Sure. A blessed life? Absolutely! But not a comfortable one.

Love your enemies…

Seek first the kingdom…

Care for the poor…

Preach the gospel…

Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me…

If you take them seriously, the teachings of Jesus will turn your life upside down—they will disrupt your goals, re-arrange your priorities, and change the very lenses through which you view life.

Don’t shy away from discomfort!

Give of your means (to the church, to those in need, to charities) to the point that it hurts, that it makes you less comfortable.

Study the parts of Scripture that are difficult and unsettling.

Force yourself to be around that Christian brother or sister who drives you crazy and figure out how to love them.

Share your faith, even if—especially if— it makes you nervous and makes your heart race.

Don’t shy away from the discomfort of life.


[1] This post has been updated from its original form as I have learned more about the meaning of kataluma and the nature of first-century dwellings. See more at https://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/once-more-jesus-was-not-born-in-a-stable/?fbclid=IwAR3WvFDTJw_5SSSCPMjk_T9ZDp4OrSlRC2gSjhs-o3kgGs0IhNPlsO0d6BU