“She wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room in the inn.”
These familiar lines ring in our ears each Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ. My favorite children’s Christmas story centers around Little Johnny. Little Johnny really wanted to play the part of Joseph in the Christmas pageant but his earnest request for the part was denied. Instead, he was offered the role of the inn keeper. Johnny reluctantly accepted the part. The night of the pageant had arrived and the auditorium was abuzz with anticipation. Joseph knocked on the door of the inn, the door flew open, and Johnny stepped out, threw his arms wide open and said, “Come in! Come on in! There’s lots of room in the inn.”
Johnny’s lines brought the house down with applause. Of course, his words were not exactly those of the original script and this story does not relate whether or not Little Johnny went on to become a movie star or a stand-up comedian. Yet his lines would live on in that community. We do not know whether the inn keeper was as cold hearted as he is portrayed as being, or if the inn was already booked to capacity on that historic night. Perhaps Joseph and Mary had run out of cash by the time they had reached Bethlehem after their long trek from Nazareth. One second-grader of note is said to have put the blame on Joseph when he said that Joseph should have used his cell phone ahead of time to book a room.
We live in a world where modern wonders, like the cell phone, have revolutionized our lives at the touch of a button. Yet the sign “No room in the inn” hangs out for many people in various ways. While some refugees from wars or other disasters find shelter with other people in other lands, others have not. Some have found work opportunities to provide for their families while others have been shut out of the work-place even as my fellow countrymen were in times past when the posted sign read, “No Irish wanted.” Of course, there are other ways in which “No room in the inn” has become a reality. There are those who speak or pen the truth to society and to the world but are subsequently censured and censored by the powerful media and even the government who do not want the truth to be revealed. Free speech and the First Amendment are shut out.
Here in Kalaupapa, we celebrated Christmas as we usually do with Mass on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas morning. We do not have a children’s Christmas pageant because we do not have any children resident in the settlement due to the existing rule here. So we could say that here in Kalaupapa there is no room in the inn for children. Of course, we understand that this policy is in respect to our resident patients who had their children taken away from them after birth lest they catch the dreaded Hansen’s Disease, known as leprosy. In their place, we seek to compensate for the lack of youth by being young at heart — and at times being silly.
May you always have a Blessed Christmas season in your heart and may you always have room in the inn. Aloha.
Anchor columnist, Father Killilea is pastor of St. Francis Church in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.