innkeeperIn churches across the country, it will soon be time to get the crib figures out. There will be kings, donkeys, shepherds, Mary and Joseph and of course a baby. Sylvia Sands in her poem Advent Absentee reminds us that we never see the innkeeper in any of these crib scenes.

It’s a powerful poem that reminds us at Inclusive Church that we are about those who are often missing from the picture; those who the church would prefer were not there.

Advent Absentee
by Sylvia Sands 

Here I go again,
carefully unpacking the figures of the crib,
tenderly wiping dust from Mary’s eyes and Joseph’s beard,
all the while practicing my contemplative skills.

Here I am, duster in hand,
seeking to emulate the shepherd’s enthusiasm and openness,
(wipe, wipe)
the wise men’s courage and generosity,
(dust, dust)

Mary’s mysticism, Joseph’s humility,
the Christ Child’s vulnerability.

Who am I kidding?
It is the absent figure that haunts me.
I stand shoulder to shoulder
in grim, callous, irritable solidarity
with that wretched innkeeper.
No room, no time, no way.

Nobody has ever dared carve him in wood
and include him in the Christmas crib,
Have they?