The Story of Jesus' Birth: A Sermon by Martin Luther
The great theologian's powerful reimagining of the Christmas story.
10. Some have commented on the word "diversorium", as if it meant an open archway, through which every body could pass, where some asses stood, and that 'Mary could not get to a lodging place. This is not right. The Evangelist desires to show that Joseph and Mary had to occupy a stable, because there was no room for her in the inn, in the place where the pilgrim guests generally lodged. All the guests were cared for in the inn or caravansary, with room, food and bed, except these poor people who had to creep into a stable where it was customary to house cattle.
This word "diversorium", which by Luke is called "katalyma" means nothing else than a place for guests, which is proved by the words of Christ, Luke 22,11, where he sent the disciples to prepare the supper, "Go and say unto the master of the house, The Teacher saith unto thee, Where is the guest chamber, where I shall eat the Passover with my disciples?" So also here Joseph and Mary had no room in the katalyma, the inn, but only in the stable belonging to the innkeeper, who would not have been worthy to give shelter to such a guest. They had neither money nor influence to secure a room in the inn, hence they were obliged to lodge in a stable. 0 world, how stupid! 0 man, how blind thou art!
11. But the birth itself is still more pitiful. There was no one to take pity on this young wife who was for the first time to give birth to a child; no one to take to heart her condition that she, a stranger, did not have the least thing a mother needs in a birth-night. There she is without any preparation, without either light or fire, alone in the darkness, without any one offering her service as is customary for women to do at such times. Every thing is in commotion in the inn, there is a swarming of guests from all parts of the country, no one thinks of this poor woman. It is also possible that she did not expect the event so soon, else she would probably have remained at Nazareth.
12. Just imagine what kind of swaddling clothes they were in which she wrapped the child. Possibly her veil or some article of her clothing, she could spare. But that she should have wrapped him in Joseph's trousers, which are exhibited at Aixla-Chapelle appears entirely too false and frivolous. It is a fable, the like of which there are more in the world. Is it not strange that the birth of Christ occurs in cold winter, in a strange land, and in such a poor and despicable manner?