By Professor Revelation Velunta
New Testament & Cultural Studies
Union Theological Seminary (PH)
This is the reality of our world today. There is no room.
No room for refugees. No room for Lumads. No room for the Rohingya. No room for Palestinians. No room for PLHIV. No room for LGBTQi. No room for the other. No room for the stranger.
The first Christmas. We combine Matthew’s and Luke’s narratives. We re-enact it almost every December in our school plays and in our church pageants. St. Francis started the tradition in the 1200s. In our re-enactments, Joseph and a very pregnant Mary find no room. No one is ready and willing to welcome the couple. Eventually, they find shelter among animals, in a manger, where Jesus is born. Soon, visitors arrive: angels, shepherds, even the Little Drummer Boy in some of our plays, and then the magi bringing gifts. Incidentally, in one TV spot I saw abroad, one of the magi brings the Baby Jesus the newest Android Smartphone.
In artwork going around in our social networks, the Wise Men are blocked by Israel’s Apartheid Wall. Mary and Joseph experience an IDF checkpoint. No room for the Magi. No room for the Holy Family. Not even in Bethlehem. And then there’s Trump’s Wall.
We think our Christmas Plays end on a happy note because we either end it with everyone singing carols or with a rendition of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, sang by the choir or blasted through our sound systems.
We forget that the play ended the way it began: there was no room.
In rare occasions we do find people going against the script of our Christmas plays. Sometimes, someone from the audience, someone from our congregations would volunteer to welcome Joseph, Mary, and Joseph to their homes. Sometimes, we hear children crying out: “There is a place for them in our home.”
Today is one of those times when we are challenged to affirm that “there is a place in our homes, in our churches, in our schools, in our communities.” Today, more than ever, we need to go against the script. We cannot afford to close our doors. We cannot afford to put up walls. Trump is wrong. Israel is wrong.
We cannot afford to be inhospitable. We cannot afford to spend Christmas without opening our homes to the Christ who confronts us through the least among the least: the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the prisoners, the unclothed, the orphan, the widow…THE STRANGER. The thousands left homeless and devastated by earthquakes, floods, and other calamities; the tens of thousands victimized by years of unabated mining, logging, militarization, and the culture of impunity; the countless others, human beings like you and me, who have been sacrificed in the War on Terror and the War on Drugs. Both wars being Wars against the Poor.
The cycles of violence, of dehumanization, of exploitation, of disenfranchisement, of victimization have to stop. All these are man-made which means we can unmake them. Things need to change. Now.
There should always be room. If there is none, you and I have to make sure there is. This is what Jesus did. He gave his life creating room for the least, the lost, the last, and the left.
This is what we must do.