By Trudy Wischemann
In church Sunday, the fourth one in Advent, we gathered to hear Joseph’s part of the nativity story from the Book of Matthew. Finding out about Mary’s premature pregnancy prior to the consummation of their marriage, Joseph had decided not to subject her to the stoning Jewish law provided, but simply to not take her as his wife. Quietly, no accusations, simply not going to take her in, not going to bring her home and start a family. No room at Joseph’s house for a woman like that, not in the line of David.
Thank God he listens to his dream, for all our sakes. Joseph will find out soon enough what it’s like to find there’s no room at the inn or elsewhere in Bethlehem for peasants from Nazareth. But as I listened to Joseph’s side of the story of the birth of this child whom he will serve temporarily as father, I was struck how hardwired we all are to keep people out of our lives.
On my way to church, listening to news on NPR, an artist in El Paso was being interviewed about the mass shooting tragedy that occurred there a few months ago and the performance piece he’s created in response. One of his best friends from elementary school was killed in that event, two others survived. How are their families doing? the interviewer asked. The whole community is suffering, the artist replied. It’s always been bad here at the border, he said, but now it seems as if our culture is being erased. Erased, because there’s no room here for the likes of them.
When Mary heard the angel Gabriel’s words about the child she was carrying in utero, she dreamed the child would become king of all Israel and that, at last, her people would not be treated like ants to be exterminated. Forever they would have a place to lay their heads. There would be room. It is a horror that in this country, at this time in the universe, Jewish people are also being shot and killed because someone feels there is no room for them here.
No room. “Room” is essentially a land question, space on terra firma. The poet John
Berger wrote in 1984 that during the last century and a half, displacement from land once called home has been unequaled in all the centuries preceding it. “Never before have so many people been uprooted. Emigration, forced or chosen, across national frontiers or from village to metropolis, is the quintessential experience of our time. That industrialization and capitalism would require such a transport of men on an unprecedented scale and with a new kind of violence was already prophesied by the opening of the slave trade in the sixteenth century. The Western Front in the First World War with its conscripted massed armies was a later confirmation of the same practice of tearing up, assembling, transporting and concentrating in a ‘no-man’s-land.’ Later, concentration camps, across the world, followed the logic of the same continuous practice.”
One paragraph later, Berger says why talk about it? “To whisper for that which has been lost. . . on the site of loss, hopes are born.”
If each child born is a child of God, there must be room for that child on this earth, God’s holy face. May those who think they can say there’s no room here for people other than those like themselves – may those people lay down their arms and follow the star to that manger in the Bethlehem stable. There’s room there for them. Even them.
Trudy Wischemann is a writer with an affinity for stables. You can send her your vacancy notices c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.