Posts Tagged ‘Migrant Caravan’

La Posada – the Mexican Christmas celebration – remembers how Mary and Joseph could not find a place in Bethlehem. The drama is accompanied by all manner of delicious foods, pinatas and song.

At the culmination of La Posada party goers stand outside the home where the party has been prepared. They are dressed in costumes and two persons are elected to play the parts of Joseph and Mary. Those inside the house represent ones inside the inn including the Innkeeper. They sing back and forth to one another:

Holy Family: In the name of heaven, I ask you for shelter for my beloved wife can go no farther.

Innkeeper: This is not an inn, get on with you. I cannot open the door, you might be a rogue.

Holy Family: Do not be inhuman, show some charity and God in heaven with reward you.

Innkeeper: You may go now and don’t bother us anymore, because if I get angry I will beat you.

Holy Family: We are worn out, all the way from Nazareth. I am a carpenter named Joseph.

Innkeeper: Never mind your name, let me sleep. I’ve already told you, we won’t open the door.

Holy Family: We request lodging, dear innkeeper, for only one night, for the Queen of Heaven.

Innkeeper: If she is a queen who is asking, why is it that she is out at night, wandering so alone?

Holy Family: My wife is Mary, she is the Queen of Heaven, she will be the mother to the Divine Word.

Innkeeper: Is that you Joseph? Your wife is Mary? Enter pilgrims, I didn’t recognize you.

Holy Family: May the Lord reward you for your charity and may heaven fill you will happiness.

Innkeeper: Blessed is the home harboring on this day, the pure virgin, the beautiful Mary.

At this point the door is opened and those outside enter as all sing:

Enter holy pilgrims, pilgrims, receive this corner, not of this dwelling, but of my heart. Tonight is for happiness, for pleasure and rejoicing, for tonight we will give lodging to the Mother of God the Son.

We might find this holy family differently today, in different garb and circumstance. We might call them migrants, refugees, displaced persons or the caravan. They come to us the same, sojourning out of desperation and carrying only hope. They sing at our door. And what do we sing back?

Let me tell you something: We can talk all we want about bringing Christmas back and playing carols in shopping malls. We can wage wars over placing a Christmas creche on the courthouse lawn. But if we don’t notice that Mary, Joseph and Jesus are travelling our way, if we miss La Posada, if we do not discern just who the singers are on our doorstep, then all the rest means absolutely nothing.

Don’t dare light a Christmas candle while they still huddle outside the door, or worse rip the family apart and separate it after their long journey. Because if we do, it is not Christmas we keep but something else altogether.

MS St. Louis 1939

In 1939 a German ocean liner by the name MS St. Louis departed Hamburg with Jewish passengers fleeing Nazi Germany and the escalating violence toward Jews. It first arrived in Havana, Cuba and discovered that the Cuban government had canceled all landing permits.

Seeking port in the nearby United States they were also refused entrance, notified that they would not be admitted because they lacked proper immigration paperwork. In the aftermath of the great depression and American isolationism the public sentiment was decidedly anti-immigrant and in many cases anti-Semitic. Even though Roosevelt could have issued an executive order to admit them he bowed to public sentiment and refused.

The ship eventually returned to Britain and Europe and different countries admitted portions of the passengers. Eventually 254 of the passengers aboard the MS St. Louis were killed in the Holocaust.

Now, in retrospect, with full knowledge of the Nazi killing machine, most Americans are ashamed of our national decision at such a time of urgency and desperation. We responded in a callous, unfeeling way. Those decisions sent many people to their deaths.

Today desperate people are also arriving at our gates. They are men, women and children. They do not travel by ship on water but rather on land by foot. They come from places where their lives are at stake, threatened by not only poverty but by drug cartels and gangs. Their voyage from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador is long and dangerous. Parents are attempting to deliver their children from the jaws of death.

What awaits them at this moment in history is not the welcome of the Statue of Liberty. What awaits them at ports of entry where it is legal to apply for asylum are closed borders, troops, razor wire, tear gas and parents being separated from children. Our government could expedite the processing of these strangers, sojourners, and migrants but no … every attempt to block their entry is being employed at this very moment. We could add processing personnel and border staff to make this happen for a fraction of what it cost to deploy over 5000 military troops, but no.

In 1939 the American government refused entrance to a ship of desperate Jews fleeing the killing fields of Adolf Hitler. This decision has become one of our stories of shame. In 2018 the American government is now refusing entrance to people just as desperate and years from now we will look back with the same shame. For when they came to our door we turned them away, no room for fragile families fleeing for their lives.