I am sure that the inn keeper of the Christmas story felt he had very good reasons for saying to this tired, dishevelled couple that there was no room at the inn. I am sure of it, because they are all the same reasons we are all still giving to those who are still knocking on the door.
It pains me deeply that too often today the Marys and Josephs of our world still find the doors firmly closed against them, offered at best a stable, at worst a starry sky or a ticket home. It saddens me that locked doors, security gates, border walls, complicated processes and procedures which are designed to keep 'the other' away are an increasingly integral part of the society we are creating.
It challenges me deeply to know that I too, too often close the door behind the strangers I will never learn to call friends, as I sadly turn away for want of knowing how else to respond. I too am implicated in decisions which leave others out in the cold.
But I am also privileged to be inspired by some of those who, in lots of different ways, keep trying to open doors just a little bit wider and let just a little more light shine through, those who put their toes in the way so that they can't be slammed shut. And I am also privileged to be inspired by some of those who have, whatever the barriers in their way, crossed some of those lines, the visible and the invisible, and have done so with good humour and good grace.
And so this year's Christmas poem is inspired by the story of an Inn Keeper who, in the end, did at least, open his stable door:
When strangers came knocking at the door
These unknown folk from a foreign place
Life-worn and travel-weary, I hoped they’d pass on
Seeking elsewhere for a welcoming space.
From my post on the safe side of the door
I chose to say there’s no room
As I made the call to keep the other out
What crowds of thoughts and feelings loom.
I’d like to help them, I told myself
But there’s not enough here to share
I have my own needs to worry about first
Plus there are others inside who need my care.
And as they stood out in the cold and dark
I even told myself it was for their own good
They needed so much more than I could offer
So I withheld even that which I could
The fear I felt was real
Of these people who are not like me
In this our world of violent threat
Who knows what the dangers might be
And what if they bring all that anger and hurt
Of a life that has left them damaged and torn
But what if, what if, from this dark place
This child they bare is born
I can’t quite say what changed my mind
How a whispered voice of love broke through
But I knew as I dared to take this risk
The hope of God was born anew
For these unknown ones are still human
And their painful stories hold great grace
In that sliver of light through an open door
It was to God I offered a space.