Friday, December 23, 2016

No Room in the Inn--Still? Maybe Syria Doesn't Count.

Photo courtesy of Freedom House / flickr

Thomas Mann said of great literature: “It is—it always—however much we try to say it was.” And this is why we open the old book and read the Christmas story. It is not only about “once upon a time…” it is about the here and the now.

The once upon a time tells about a country where a mad king ruled. Herod was terrible. On the first Christmas—blood ran through the streets and babies were killed by the thousands. Israel was invaded by Romans who kept the cursed Jews under their thumb. It was a world of inequity and injustice. A world where crucifixions were the rule of the day. In many ways it was a terrible time to live. And in that darkness there came a tiny light. It seemed so small and inconsequential that unless your were careful you would miss the miracle. Most did. But a pregnant girl-woman and her husband trudged along a road to pay taxes. The young woman was in her last stages of pregnancy. And the trip must have been hard. A donkey trudging along on a rocky, rocky road. When they got to Bethlehem the young husband tried too find a place to stay, The book says simply that they were told, probably more than once: There was no room in the inn. But someone provided a drafty barn where animals stood in steaming dung. And there is the most mundane of places the word became flesh and would dwell among his people. 

And now. In almost that same country—shepherds do not keep their flocks by night. Bombs fall. Some citizens have known nothing but war and death and terror their whole lives. Like that other Christmas story blood ran through the streets. Thousands have been killed. Millions have fled for their very lives. How many have gotten on those rocky boats and how many have perished just looking for safety. Their homes have been bombed. Their loved ones killed. We call them refugees. Immigrants. They have no place to go except some tent cities—and town after town—and country after country shake their heads and say: No room. The greatest country in the world is full of inn keepers that make sure there is no room here.

We Christians will read the old story this Christmas time. We shall think of Herod and the kings that fled from his clutches and the young couple just looking for a place of safety and comfort. The drafty barn provided little comfort. And days later the couple wrapped up their new born and fled for their lives too. Will we Christians see the “is-ness” of this story. Will we even see the faces of those fleeing for their lives. Will we see the tent cities and the fear and longing and the heartbreak and the grief.

There is little room in our land for these people. Our new king promises to keep the doors shut and all us citizens safe. But what of all those others? What does that old story say to us today. When the history of our churches are written—when the history of our country is written—what will they say about us.

We cannot turn aside and forget our brothers and sisters that suffer in so many place. The old story of no room in the inn does not have to be our story too. The light is supposed to shine in the darkness and the darkness is not supposed to put it out.

photo courtesy of Freedom House / flickr

--Roger Lovette/

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Roger, for this post and for the column in the Christmas Eve Greenville News. I had my close family around me at Mass Saturday night, safe and warm and fed. I love singing, especially Christmas songs at church. This time though, I couldn't get out so many of the words, and the tears flowed! Tears of guilt, gratitude, helplessness. But still joy that those around me could sing those words. Yes, where does that lump in the throats come from? I am hoping for light and trying to shine my own little light. Keep shining, readers.