The inns… In this case, the inns that turned Mary and Joseph away when they were looking for a place for her to give birth to Jesus, thus the stable…
It happens every December 10th in Santa Fe and has for a long time: the re-enactment of this Biblical exile, central to the Christmas story as Christians know it.
The crowd that gathered in the Plaza Sunday night probably was only dimly aware, if at all, of the original story. Most were tourists drawn by newspaper announcements of something to do in the middle of town at the beginning of a chilly night. Often in past years there has been snow falling but we have no snow to show and probably will have little if any.
Perhaps that added to the slightly off atmosphere, that curious combination of curiosity and confusion tourists bring. And the cold wind, which put out our little candles in their paper collars almost as soon as we lit them. And the fact that now we don’t have a donkey for Mary to ride in on—probably some health department nonsense.
And then, this is the first year in decades when there were no devils to drive the holy couple from the inn doors. In the past devils in flaming red costumes pranced on the rooftops of the old buildings around the Plaza, shouting the equivalent in Spanish of “No room at the inn!” This allowed the crowd to roar their disapproval. Some authority decided that since the Bible certainly doesn’t mention devils, it seemed more appropriate to replace them with innkeepers—men in a motley assortment of robes. They shouted mightily when Mary and Joseph appeared but somehow booing men in robes didn’t arouse the crowd’s enthusiasm. They were just innkeepers after all who had no rooms to rent.
Still, there was a magic in the pretty Mary and her shiny blue gown next to the tall Joseph with his staff. And since we are now as a country in the midst of shouting “No room at the inn!” to thousands of immigrants, any one of whom could be a Mary or a Joseph, the evening had a certain weight. How long will we continue to abuse the sacred idea of hospitality?