Innkeeper Syndrome

Jarrel Oliveira
5 min readAug 16, 2022


Poet Taelor Gray pondered the question, how did that innkeeper feel after refusing to give Mary and Joseph a room to nest in for the night, not giving them the privacy and shelter they needed throughout the process of labor?

“I wonder how it felt to be that inn keeper
To send Messiah to the stables where the pigs eating?” Jacob and Judas (track)

Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn son, and she wrapped him tightly in cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” Luke 2:4‭-‬7 CSB

Philip Koloski, writing for Aleteia (truth or disclosure in philosophy) discussed the immediate conditions the earthy parents of Christ experienced moments, if not days away from bringing the incarnate God into the world. The lack of a “room” or an “inn” as we understand motels and hotels today has to be addressed, as the complimentary breakfast and WiFi included deals we have today did not exist then. So what does this passage refer to when we read from Luke that “there was no guest room available for them”?

Here is Philip:

“Guest room

The word used in the original text is kataluma and is best understood as a “guest room,” not a type of commercial inn used for travelers. For that type of lodging, Luke uses the word pandokheion. Additionally, Bethlehem was Joseph’s “hometown” and he likely had relatives to stay with.

Even more to the point, very few people would want to give birth in a type of public motel. Inns at that time did not have a good reputation and Mary would have wanted privacy for such an intimate event.

Furthermore, a close reading of the text reveals that Joseph and Mary had been in Bethlehem for a number of days before her birth

According to Luke, the holy couple were already staying in Bethlehem when Mary went into labor. In other words, they weren’t rushing to find somewhere to stay on Christmas Eve, but looking for a proper place with enough space and privacy for the birthing process.

Since the census forced everyone to come back home, the “inn” or “guest room” was full. Mary and Joseph had to find another place.”

I wonder, I truly wonder if this innkeeper, this homeowner who denied this young couple a room in his home, whether it was a single person or a community who did not have or did not want to share their space with a pregnant woman — possibly a relative of theirs — why they did what they did. What troubles us, some two thousand years later, is whether these people lived long enough to witness the crucifixion of Jesus.

Could they have lived some thirty-odd years after this night, after denying Mary a room, to witness the very child she birthed in their shed, their barn, crucified? I’m not sure. Perhaps these people were old, poor, and short on space, well knowing that adding to their numbers would only exacerbate an already delicate situation. I mean, the census was a major part of Roman rule. Rome wanted to know how many subjects were under their reign and whoever failed to list themselves present where and when they were expected to be would be liable to suffer some financial consequence, or worse.

Perhaps Bethlehem was overcrowded. It was a tiny town but with the influx of ex-pats returning home for the census produced this social crisis which overwhelmed locals, many not having room to share with outsiders and family members who traveled from abroad to honor the governments requests.

What troubles me in this story is that God was entering the world in the flesh and He was denied an anteroom, a side room, a minor inconvenience in which to be born. Will these people ever know who it was they turned away?

Will we?

Is it possible we clutter the house of our souls with “others” or “things” or “ideas” and “philosophies” that when Christ comes to us we tell Him there is no room available or left in us for Him?

Innkeeper Syndrome, a neologism on my part, is a condition where we create or produce a noble enough cause or idea worth grappling with, but one which develops in us a blinder where we value these lesser things more than we value the Lord.

And when Jesus does knock on our door, either as Himself or as an alien, a sojourner, an immigrant, a refuge, a hungry beggar, a mother who has nothing to feed her children, a father whose vehicle is out of gas, a woman whose leader assaulted her, we, under pious hubris, confidently dismiss these and others more, because we have no room for them (for those made in the image of God) available to spare.

We must enact an inventory of the things presently lodged in our souls, things that are seemingly innocuous that have become shrines in front of which we now worship so that we no longer answer the knock on the door when it comes.

We must combat the Innkeeper Syndrome present in all of us. Because when we deny Christ entry, when we deny His children a room in our hearts, we may as well be sending them to dine with pigs.

See! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me.
Revelation 3:20 CSB

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. — Proverbs 31:8 NLT

Originally published at on August 16, 2022.



Jarrel Oliveira

Husband | Girl Dad x4 | Dude | Dilettante | Blogger | Brazilian living in Canada. Life motto: Jesus said cool things.