It is most common in our day to look at the birth of Jesus as a charming little story, somewhat like the story of Peter Rabbit or Peter and the Wolf. People who think like this would regard it as something we tell children but that no one is expected to take very seriously. It is just a nice little tale to tell at Christmas.

With the exception of the innkeeper, who saw nothing important about the birth of Jesus, each of the other characters in the story saw something that was both true and significant. Looking at Jesus through the eyes of Jewish tradition and Messianic expectation, Joseph saw him as the king who was to reign on his father David's throne. Looking at him through eyes conditioned by their poverty and low social status, the shepherds saw him as the gracious one who became a friend to sinners. Mary saw Jesus through the eyes of faith and recognized him as a miracle of God's grace to be forever marveled at and pondered.

Of course, the most wonderful human character in the story is Mary. Who can do justice to her experience and to the way she saw the birth? I know I cannot. Joseph saw the birth of Jesus through the eyes of Jewish tradition and expectation. The innkeeper regarded the birth through the eyes of bland indifference. The shepherds looked on the birth of Jesus through the eyes of the poor, marveling that he could have come for them. But Mary? Mary saw the birth of her firstborn son through the eyes of a tremendous faith.

The innkeeper is not mentioned in the story, so it is a bit forced to speak of the birth of Jesus through his eyes. On the other hand, we are told that there was no room for the family in the inn, and most people therefore rightly recognize the implied existence of the innkeeper and properly note his indifference to this the most important and wonderful event in history.

The first twenty verses of Luke 2 are the longest scriptural account of the birth of Jesus Christ, but twenty verses are not many and at first glance we might wonder why a story of such historical and spiritual importance is told in so brief a space. The answer, of course, is that although the story is brief, it is nevertheless literally bursting with content and amply rewards every careful reading and study of it.