Joseph and Mary were poor.
I mean, it makes sense-- the woman gave birth in a stable, but I never really thought about it.
Elder Holland elaborates: I wonder if Luke did not have some special meaning when he wrote not “there was no room in the inn” but specifically that “there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7; italics added.) We cannot be certain, but it is my guess that money could talk in those days as well as in our own. I think if Joseph and Mary had been people of influence or means, they would have found lodging even at that busy time of year.The wise men came later, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. By the time they arrived, the Baby Jesus is described as "a young child" and Joseph and Mary were living in a house (see Matthew 2:11).
The gifts we give today to our loved ones are symbols of the gifts given to the Christ-child by the wise men. Elder Holland suggests that perhaps we use the wise men as examples to separate the gift-giving from the true reason for the season-- celebrating the birth of our Savior.
Elder Holland adds:
May we each remember the humble scene of the nativity on the night of Christ's birth. Plain and simple, yet full of love. I pray that each of our Christmas celebrations may be the same.
As happens so often if we are not careful, the symbols can cover that which is symbolized...
I do not feel—or mean this to sound—like a modern-day Scrooge. The gold, frankincense, and myrrh were humbly given and appreciatively received, and so they should be, every year and always. As my wife and children can testify, no one gets more giddy about the giving and receiving of presents than I do.
But for that very reason, I, like you, need to remember the very plain scene, even the poverty, of a night devoid of tinsel or wrapping or goods of this world. Only when we see that single, sacred, unadorned object of our devotion—the Babe of Bethlehem—will we know why “tis the season to be jolly” and why the giving of gifts is so appropriate.