Today, we are here in the midst of a story, playing all roles, being the shepherd on the freezing hillside with his sheep—we are the angels singing from the stars, we are the innkeepers confronting a couple that looks a bit scruffy standing before us, desperately needing a place to stay. And finally, we are that couple in real need of a place of safety. What do those feet feel like? I imagine that they are tired and hurt, perhaps a blister has started on one heel. We, as that couple, are at the end of our resources. A baby is coming. We look at that innkeeper, into her eyes, looking for welcome, needing that welcome for the survival of our family.
Lou and I love houses—in our life together, we have almost been obsessed with houses and renovation and I think that part of our obsession has to do with never wanting to be that couple at the door of an inn. And, our privilege and hard work have opened the way for us to only rarely be in that position. When we’re not in the shelter of one of our houses, we are in a car that we service regularly—that we know to be dependable. Our car becomes our little house—our sanctuary. Out there, it is cold and dark but we have headlights, a drink holder with water, snacks. But then, after we deliver hygiene kits, hats and scarves and gloves at the Candlelight Vigil for the Homeless who died last year, I am in my car—my little dependable house, waiting, and all of a sudden, I think—it is really dark and I’ve heard of murders here and theft—I should lock the doors of my car. So I press on the lock button of my key and guess what? A blue light begins to flash my car siren goes off. I press the siren button remembering that that was supposed to stop the siren. It doesn’t. For ten minutes I sit there breathing in deeply and finally I call Lou who is in the middle of choir practice. I was not my usual sweet self on the phone and feeling even worse my alarm continues to go off. Sutton who was at choir—calls John and he comes. Another human.. I know…offering safety—there were two of us and he had his dependable car—his little moving inn where he could offer me shelter. I hated this experience—mostly because I lost my patience with the siren going—and somehow in those moments I could experience that sense of being without shelter—of having the Toyota dealership say—sorry Ma’am I can’t go over to you—and then they said, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a blue flashing light. Then, I have a slight question about whether my car had been turned into a bomb while we were delivering goods. Was I in danger?
There are many in this world who are looking for room. Before we solve their problems, let us simply stop with this, walk in their shoes and see how it might change our lives. Our feet are sore and tired, we have come to this place from three years in a refugee camp, or this may be our first winter sleeping in Pioneer Park. We are longing for a hot shower, clean sheets, a door to close against the cold. For this moment, in the middle of all the bustle of this season, let us stand together at the door—as many of our ancestors did—as many do each day all over this world. May this perspective be our teacher.
In these stories, there are happy endings: salvation in the generosity of the inn keeper, the gifts of the shepherds and the wise men. Through our lives, our place in this story changes. We can become the kings bearing gifts or the shepherds and angels standing by—the woman sitting alone in her car that will not move, the women ready to give birth far from home, in Syrian refugee camps on Greek islands, among the people living outside in this great country, in the corners of this city. Suddenly, we can be standing at the door of the inn—wondering if there is room.