Don't you just love it when you start reading a book and before the first chapter is over you are already having to make major pradigm shifts?! Well Kenneth Bailey's Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes has done just that and promises much much more to come.
To summarise, too briefly, an excellent scholarly and Biblical argument: the traditional western Christian understanding of Joseph and Mary being refused 'a room at the inn' (Luke 2:1-7) and Jesus being born in a cold dirty stable in Bethlehem is total hogwash and based on a 3rd century novel written about Jesus by a Greek who did not understand Middle Eastern culture.
Instead we should understand that both Joseph and Mary would have been assured of a warm reception in Bethlehem because they both had family in the area and because of the middle eastern culture of hospitality. That most village homes would keep their animals inside at night to guard against theft and to provide heat. They would be in a fenced off area of the large family room. That the word usually translated 'inn' is only translated that way because of this tradition that has sprung up and should be better translated 'guest room' as some village houses would have such a room for guests (cf Luke 22:10-12). And so Jesus, although born in very humble circumstances, was in fact welcomed into the world by the hospitality of the residents of Bethlehem, not left out in the cold.
Time to re-write all your Christmas plays! :-)