Christmas is not About a Homeless Couple, Refugees, or Immigrants

Every Christmas, liberals who despise the Bible and the message of the Bible try to find something from the Bible in an attempt to advance some liberal cause based on the Bible (and ignore the Bible when it addresses same-sex sexuality/marriage and killing of unborn children).

As usual, they get it wrong, similar to the way they get the Bible’s “my brother’s keeper” message wrong.

Read more:Obama Misuses the Bible . . . Again.”

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At first, the Christmas story became a political message about homelessness. Then liberals claimed that when Mary and Joseph could not find a room in Bethlehem – you guessed it – it’s just like today’s refugee problem. Never let a contrived Bible story go to waste.Yes, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus sought refuge in Egypt because of the murderous decree of Herod, but this is quite different from allowing a refugee population to move into a nation without any vetting.Among today’s Islamic refugees are terrorists hell-bent on destroying Western Civilization.

“Rev.” Al Sharpton tweeted, “Before you head to church today, remember to thank God for his son Jesus, a refugee, who fled to Egypt.” Yes, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus sought refuge in Egypt because of the murderous decree of Herod, but this is quite different from allowing a refugee population to move into a nation without any vetting.Among today’s Islamic refugees are terrorists hell-bent on destroying Western Civilization.


They would never have left except that they were warned by God: “Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him'” (Matt. 2:13). After the death of Herod (2:15), the family returned to their homeland still under the occupation of the Herodians and Romans. This is hardly biblical support for today’s refugee movement.

Among today’s Islamic refugees are terrorists hell-bent on destroying Western Civilization.

“New Islamic State efforts to sow terror in Europe are pushing counterterrorism authorities to their limits, forcing citizens and their leaders to resign themselves to a new era where attacks may be a fact of life, not an exception.

“Europe’s open borders — a cherished centerpiece of the European Union — also make potential attackers more mobile than security authorities, a fact underlined by Amri’s apparently successful escape by train from Germany after the attack, making it more than 500 miles despite being Europe’s most-wanted man before his death in a shootout in Milan early Friday. Some European countries have temporarily closed their borders this year because of migration and terrorism, only to quickly reopen them because of the economic and logistical demands involved.” (Washington Post)

The problem with the immigration analogy is that Joseph was not a foreigner seeking refuge from his homeland since he was from Bethlehem, the place of his birth. He was a citizen of Israel. As we’ll see, the existing government was oppressing people. In this case, through taxes.

The latest claim has been made by ABC News chief political analyst Matthew Dowd who tweeted the following:

“Let us remember today 2 immigrants, a man and his very pregnant wife, sought shelter & were turned away by many. She gave birth in a manger.”

Here’s what the Bible says:

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child” (Luke 2:1-3).

Notice what passage says: “And everyone went to their own town to register.” You can’t be an immigrant in your own country.

Jesse Jackson was the first liberal to turn Christmas into a political propaganda piece. It was in the December 26, 1988, issue if Jet Magazine. The title of the article was “Jesse Jackson Tells the Real Meaning of Christmas.”

He made the same claim in 1991 when George H. W. Bush was president.1 He repeated his “homeless couple” theme at the 1992 Democratic National Convention:

“We hear a lot of talk about family values, even as we spurn the homeless on the street. Remember, Jesus was born to a homeless couple, outdoors in a stable, in the winter. He was the child of a single mother. When Mary said Joseph was not the father, she was abused. If she had aborted the baby, she would have been called immoral. If she had the baby, she would have been called unfit, without family values. But Mary had family values. It was Herod — the [Dan] Quayle of his day — who put no value on the family.”

In 1999, Jackson stated that Christmas “is not about parties, for [Mary and Joseph] huddled alone in the cold stable. It isn’t about going into debt to buy extravagant presents; the greatest Gift was given to them although they had no money. It is about a homeless couple, finding their way in a mean time.”2


Barbara Reynolds, a former columnist for USA Today, scolded the “Christian Right” for opposing government welfare programs by appealing to the birth narrative of the Bible: “They should recall,” she writes, “that Jesus Christ was born homeless to a teen who was pregnant before she was married.”3

Hillary Clinton, in comments critical of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s homeless policies, sought to remind the easily manipulated and ill-informed that “Christmas celebrates ‘the birth of a homeless child.’”4

Rev. William Sterrett told The Providence (RI) Journal that the true Christmas story is about the poor and needy. “We have a very clear picture about the whole thing,” Sterrett said. “But the truth is Mary and Joseph were homeless. She gave birth to Jesus in a barn. This image captures the essence of a Christmas story because you cannot get any poorer than that.” There’s no evidence that Jesus was born in a barn.

Pat Nichols, writing for The Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, MA), concludes, “At the core, the story of Christmas is about a homeless couple about to have a baby. It is a story about poverty that most of us never experience, people with little more than they carry on their backs and a donkey to provide transportation.”5

Have these people ever read the Bible? The Christmas story is set during a time of government control, high taxation, and political oppression (what we would be getting more of if Hillary had been elected in 2016). Here are the biblical facts:

  • Mary went to live with her cousin Elizabeth upon hearing about her pregnancy and “stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home” (Luke 1:56). If Mary returned to her own home, then she was not homeless.
  • Joseph had a job as a self‑employed carpenter (Matt. 13:55). While they weren’t rich, they were not poverty stricken (Luke 2:24; Lev. 5:11; 12:8).
  • An edict from the centralized Roman government forced Joseph and Mary to expend valuable resources and time to return to their place of birth to register for a tax (Luke 2:1-7). Joseph’s business was shut down while he took his very pregnant wife on a tax-raising scheme concocted by the Roman Empire.
  • Typical of governments that make laws without considering the consequences, there was not enough housing for the great influx of traveling citizens and subjects who had to comply with the governmental decree (Luke 2:1).
  • Mary and Joseph had enough money to pay for lodging. The problem was inadequate housing, not a lack of funds or inhospitality. The Greek word translated “inn” (Luke 2:7) is inaccurate when compared to the same word used in Mark 14:14 and Luke 22:11 where it’s translated as “guest room.”
    Israelite house
    Full-scale model of typical Israelite home in the Semitic Museum at Harvard University

    “The Greek word commonly rendered in English as ‘inn’ in Luke 2 is the same word frequently translated as ‘guest room’ in Luke 22 [verse 11], meaning that it was probably the guest quarters in a crowded family home where Mary could find no space for labor, requiring her to descend with Joseph into the lower part of the house where the animals were stored at night in order to give birth. . . . [S]ince Joseph and Mary were probably staying with his family members, it’s highly unlikely that they had any doors slammed in their face on the night when Christ was born, rendering the ‘you’re just as heartless as those hotel managers’ accusation rather toothless.”6

  • If we follow liberal-logic (an oxymoron if there every was one), any family that takes a trip and finds a “no vacancy” sign is technically homeless. But let’s not give the government any ideas or it might create a new welfare program.
  • Joseph and Mary owned or rented a home. It was in their home that the wise men offered their gifts: “And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshipped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Matt. 2:11).
  • If Mary and Joseph were homeless, it was the private charity of the wise men that helped them, not a government welfare program. See the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37).
  • Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were a family on the run when Herod, a government official, became a threat to them (Matt. 2:13–15). Once again, government intervention was the problem.

Politicians and social critics are quick to quote and misquote the Bible when they can twist its message to support their quirky and dangerous political views. When conservatives appeal to the Bible, we hear the inevitable “separation of church and state,” “you can’t impose your morality on other people,” “religion and politics don’t mix.” But they are quick to impose their distorted view of biblical morality on the rest of us through the power of civil government.

The Advent story, in addition to being a demonstration of God’s love toward sinners, is also about how taxes hurt the poor and government decrees can turn productive families into the disenfranchised by enacting and enforcing counterproductive laws.

  1. The Atlanta Journal/Constitution (December 28, 1991), A9. 

  2. Jesse Jackson, “The Homeless Couple,” Los Angeles Times (December 22, 1999). 

  3. Barbara Reynolds, “These political Christians neither religious nor right,” USA Today (Nov. 18, 1994), 13A. 

  4. Cited in “Washington” under Politics in USA Today (December 1, 1999), 15A. 

  5. Pat Nichols, “It’s time to offer a helping hand,” The Berkshire Eagle (December 12, 2004). 

  6. Hans Fiene, “The Christmas Story Is About Christ, Not Obama’s Syrian Refugee Policy,” The Federalist (Nov. 18, 2015). See “No Room in the Inn? Why the Traditional Christmas Story is Wrong” by Mikel Del Rosario. 


Gary DeMar

Gary DeMar was raised in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University (1973) and Reformed Theological Seminary (1979). He has served as researcher and writer at the Christian Worldview ministry American Vision since 1980 and President since 1984. Today he serves as Senior Fellow at American Vision where he lectures, researches, and writes on various worldview issues. Gary is the author of 30 books on a variety of topics – from "America’s Christian History" and "God and Government" to "Thinking Straight in a Crooked World" to "Last Days Madness." Gary has been interviewed by Time magazine, CNN, MSNBC, FOX, the BBC, and Sean Hannity. He has done numerous radio and television interviews, including the “Bible Answer Man,” hosted by Hank Hanegraaff and “Today’s Issues” with Tim Wildmon and Marvin Sanders. Newspaper interviews with Gary have appeared in the Washington Times, Toledo (Ohio) Blade, the Sacramento Bee, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Marietta Daily Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, The Orlando Sentinel, and the Chicago Tribune.

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