The story of the birth of Jesus is a powerful and beautiful one, telling of the God of the universe coming down in a quiet and humble way to save an errant humanity from its bad choices. However, as always, it is important to understand what the Word actually teaches, in this case about what happened in Bethlehem so long ago. Such clarification is especially needed here since so many legends have grown up about the Christmas story that are not in fact what the Gospels tell us. A close reading of the passages involved indicates that:
1. The Gospels say nothing about Mary riding on a donkey, nor that Jesus was either born at night or immediately after Joseph and Mary’s arrival in Bethlehem. All the Gospels do tell us is that His birth took place “while they were there” (Luke 2:6).
2. Jesus was not born in a barn or cave but in the downstairs room of a house, since the upper or guest room (katavluma in the original Greek – Luke 22:7) was already occupied. Animals were often kept in such downstairs rooms, with mangers to feed them. “By being inside, the animals were protected from the elements and theft. In addition, their presence provided body heat for cool nights, access to milk for the daily meal and dung as a critical fuel source.” (From Christiananswers website)
For a full review of all that was involved here, see the following links:
An interesting footnote to the Christmas story is that Jesus began his life on this earth downstairs because of lack of room in a katavluma. Then, just prior to the end of His life , He went “upstairs” to a katavluma at the Last Supper (the only other time that term is used in the Bible – Luke 22:11; Mark 14:14).