In a recent blog post
Rick Mansfield argues that we've been giving the innkeeper in Bethlehem blame that he doesn't deserve. Rick says:
I can still hear Jim Blevins, one of my old NT profs from way back, lamenting the fact that the Bethlehem innkeeper has gotten a bad rap all these years for supposedly being so heartless toward Mary and Joseph--making them stay in the barn rather than finding a room at the local Motel 6! The Bethlehem innkeeper has been the villain in Christmas pageants down through the centuries--but it was all based on poor translation!
Kατάλυμα/kataluma is better understood as a family guest room rather than an inn (and the first century inn wasn't anything like we think of as an inn anyway, but that's another subject). More than likely because Joseph, as well as many of his extended family, was traveling back to his ancestral village, the extra rooms in his relatives' homes were full. He and Mary may have also arrived late because no doubt traveling during the ninth month of pregnancy would have slowed their journey. One might wonder why one of Joseph's relatives would not have given up his spot in the guest room, especially considering Mary's condition. However, one can speculate that Mary may have been shunned by Joseph's family members who would have probably heard that she was pregnant out of wedlock.