6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.

7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

For Mary and Joseph, the grief and the struggle do not stop at the end of their arduous journey. You might hope that, returning to the place of his birth, after a long and difficult trip, Joseph and his soon-to-be bride might receive a warm welcome from family or friends who remembered the young carpenter who had moved away to Nazareth.

But, alas, there is no warm welcome. In the crush of census travellers, the most rudimentary accommodation is unavailable for the young couple.

Had Joseph been completely forgotten during his absence? Is there a story behind his leaving Bethlehem to settle in Nazareth, some secret shame that caused the inhabitants of his tiny home town to shun him upon return? Or, perhaps it is the scandal of his family situation, accompanied by pregnant Mary without the privilege of marriage to remove the perception of shame.

Whatever the reason, Mary and Joseph are outcasts in Joseph’s own home town. Jesus is born on the edge, with none of the trappings or securities of respectable society. He will always travel in the fringe regions. He is going to have to look elsewhere for a sense of belonging. As a man, Jesus would say of himself, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58)

But it is not just Jesus. No one can establish an ultimately secure sense of belonging here in this time-bound material realm. To some degree, I will always fit imperfectly in this world. It is true, as the early twentieth hymn writer Albert Brumley wrote, “This world is not my home, I’m just-a-passing through”. The problems begin when I seek to establish a secure sense of “home” in this temporal realm.

I wonder where I hope to find a sense of belonging. What strategies do I pursue in a futile attempt to establish some sense of home in this world where it is often difficult to find a comfortable place to fit?


How do I respond when I feel I do not belong, do not fit in the world? What changes when I give up the hope of ever having a sense of fully belonging in this material realm?


For a really powerful speculation on the reason for Joseph’s finding no place to stay, see the 2010 BBC film “The Nativity” at about the halfway point. It is available through the GVPL on Hoopla https://www.hoopladigital.com/play/12600786


Or for a sermon reflecting on this theme see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFNjHyyobps


(Julius Garibaldi Melchers – 1860-1932)