What if the story of the birth of Jesus in a stable because of lack of availability in the inn was–well–not quite the way it happened? This is what Ben Witherington III argues in an article published a few years ago.
In short, Witherington argues that the word translated “inn” (Luke 2:7) in most modern translations should really be “guest room.” Witherington goes on to argue that archaeological evidence indicates that houses in Bethlehem had caves or shelters attached to the back of the house and this is probably where Mary and Joseph were put. Indeed, they likely weren’t trying to get a room at the local motel, but were staying with relatives.
Interestingly, the 2010 edition of the New International Version has adopted this wording:
6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,
7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
You might also want to check out The Net Bible’s comment connected to Luke 2:7. As they put it,
“There was no place for them in the inn.” There is no drama in how this is told. There is no search for a variety of places to stay or a heartless innkeeper. (Such items are later, nonbiblical embellishments.) Bethlehem was not large and there was simply no other place to stay.