Week 16: Chock -a- block! Really?

by | Dec 24, 2018

It is funny what catches my attention. Or rather how the world can seem to be flashing before me the same message in different ways, insisting that I stop, look, listen, pay attention and live into the questions being asked of me.

Last Friday afternoon, I was taken back some 25 or more to the years, as I attended the Peter Combe Christmas Concert, where he performed (and I sang along to at least silently and at times out loud) most of the 16 songs on “The Peter Combe Christmas Album” that he had released in 1990 and was very much part of the Christmases we shared with our children. John and I probably enjoyed the concert last Friday more than our two daughters and our granddaughter, who came with us, although Matilda at 16 months, was entranced each time she saw a baby.

One of the songs was Chocka-a block. It got stuck in my head- earworm, I think it is called. I don’t remember it doing so 25 years ago but for the last 4 days the song has not wanted to leave the space between my ears, rather repeating over and over again.

Chocka-a block by Peter Combe

Nup, nup, no room in the inn – sorry
Nup, can’t be done, no room in the inn
Absolutely impossible.

We’re chock -a- block as a matter of fact
Every room full you couldn’t swing a cat.
Sorry about this situation
But there’s nothing that I can do
When you’re full, you’re full
And we’re full – sorry!
Chock -a -block, chock -a -block
Chock -a -block as a matter of fact.

He’s sorry about the situation
But there’s nothing that he can do
When you’re full, you’re full
And they’re full – sorry
Chock -a -block, chock -a -block
Chock -a -block as a matter of fact.

And as it whizzes around my already cluttered mind, the “No Vacancies” signs in the guest houses, B and Bs and Hotels of Llandudno reappear. While walking the streets of this seaside resort town on the north coast of Wales, during the last week of by sabbatical, I was struck by how many places had “No Vacancies” signs up, despite being well and truly out of the tourist season. Was really every bed in the establishment full? In a few places that may have been the case, for certainly some seemed to have lots of people sitting at the breakfast tables or lugging bags off the bus parked outside the door, but I suspect many, despite the signs, were in fact unoccupied, with the owners taking the opportunity of low season to get some rest, maybe take a holiday themselves or carry out renovations in time for the next wave of guests.

As I walked Llandudno, as Chocka-block ricochets around my head, my mind wanders back to Luke’s infancy narrative and the verses:

“Now it happened that, while Mary and Joseph were there in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first-born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the living-space*.”

* In some translations: inn/ guest house, lodging place.

Then on Facebook the following posting from “The Contemplative Monk” had popped up on multiple occasions in recent days:

“Each of us is an Innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus.”

And so I find myself asking questions.

  • Is there room for Christ in my Christmas this year?
  • Can I make room or more room for what is waiting to be born at this time?
  • What needs to be discarded to create a vacancy?
  • Do I need to say no, I am chock-block, full, with no room available, such that the necessary renovations can take happen and the space prepared for the new guests to arrive in the coming season?
  • Or by saying no and hanging up the “No Vacancy” sign, am I not only overlooking the opportunity to welcome the stranger but forgetting that in doing so I am in fact oblivious to the Divine presence being born in this particular moment?
  • How do I respond to our government, elected by the people to make decisions on our behalf, that is not only saying that there is there no room here for asylum seekers fleeing their homeland and arriving by boat, but imprisoning, abusing and neglecting their most basic needs, so as to discourage others from fleeing persecution making their way to this vast and potentially hospitable country?

So, so many questions. May I be empty enough to be able to hear them, live them. May I live the questions with integrity, love and compassion.

Subscribe to 'Border Crossings'

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.