Dec 2017, Christ Mountain Top
costume: an apron]
is fantastic. I know it won’t last. I know the census isn’t just to count
people, but to tax us. BUT, this is one time that it really pays to live in
Bethlehem. There are more people from
Bethlehem than in Bethlehem, so every
home has turned into an inn. And, our home, while not a mansion, has four
rooms! It’s big, and that means more guests. Business is fantastic, did I tell
staying with us, like they do from time to time. Anna and Zeke and their four
kids are in one room. Me and my Marta, and our five in another. It’s tight, but
it means we can make money on the outsiders. Marta and Anna are spending all
their time cooking over the fire to feed the four other families that are
camping out on our floor. They won’t be here long, but by the time they’re gone
we will have made enough to get another leg up in the world. “Joshua,” I say to
myself, “Business is fantastic, and life is good.”
is fantastic, but there is a little conflict. Marta has a soft spot for hard
luck cases. She doesn’t understand that this is business, not charity. And,
aside from that, there’s the logistics of the matter: There is only so much
room. Six families in our four room house is quite enough. And I’m not going to
further inconvenience our paying customers for some latecomers, migrants from
Galilee. No wonder they claim Bethlehem as their ancestral home! Nazareth is a
backwater, a good-for-nothing place!
she says, “the girl is pregnant and she’s just about to pop!” “So, do you want
me to get a needle?” Marta never likes my sarcasm. She elbowed me in the ribs.
do you charge?” the man asked. “Seriously, we’re full. No room. Sorry.” I
turned to go and leave the couple to look elsewhere, but Marta stood in my way.
“Joshua, you know there’s no room anywhere. What are you going to do about it?”
“What am I going to do about it? What are you
going to do about it?!” I shouldn’t have said it. I knew it as soon as the
words left my mouth. Because it gave her permission to do something that I
didn’t want her to do. And with that woman – and I love her – give her an inch
and she’ll take a mile. She’s been doing this to me for years. I don’t know how
she does it, but she always seems to find a new way to create that small
opening that she can wedge apart and get her own way.
to slow her down. “The animals, we’ve got room with them.” “Joshua!” “Well,
where else?” “Okay then, you stay for free!” I rolled my eyes. What am I to do
with this woman? She takes in stray animals, and now stray people, a migrant
couple – one of them very pregnant – that traveled ninety miles by foot so they
could sign up to pay their taxes. Now I’m starting to sound like Marta,
sympathetic and compassionate. But I put my foot down. “Marta, if they stay for
free, don’t expect any help from me.” The man reached for his money but Marta
stopped him. She gave me the eye. I was mad.
that night I took care of our paying customers and then went to bed. The
pregnant woman, still with the animals in the lower level of our home, went
into labor and Marta helped her. Anna and Zeke helped. I stayed in bed, wide
awake to the labor pains, but still too mad to lift a finger. It’s the
principle of the thing, you know. At least, that’s what I told myself. But I
was also mad at myself because, deep down, I knew Marta was right but didn’t
want to admit it.
over and a baby was born. It got quiet and I drifted off into a restless sleep.
I woke to unfamiliar voices. It was still dark and I was disoriented. I covered
myself and made my way toward the voices – with this young couple and our
animals. Shepherds had seen a vision of angels. They were told that this baby
was God’s Savior, the Messiah, and that they would find him lying in a feeding
trough. They were kneeling. They were singing psalms. They were waking the
neighbors and the paying customers.
so sorry Marta. My head is harder than these rocks.” “At least your heart isn’t
as hard as your head. And, if you weren’t so stubborn, the shepherds would
never have found this baby in a feeding trough like the angels said.” Did I
tell you I love Marta?
away.” “Yes ma’am.”
Merton, a Trappist monk in the last century, wrote:
this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at
all, Christ comes uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it, because he
is out of place in it, and yet he must be in it, his place is with those others
for whom there is no room. His place is with those who do not belong, who are
rejected by power because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited,
who are denied the status of persons, tortured, exterminated. With those for
whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world. He is mysteriously
present in those for whom there seems to be nothing but the world at its worst.
Merton, “The Time of the End Is the Time of No Room” in Raids on the
Unspeakable, pages 51-52 (check it out)