The Closing of Tornillo is the Christmas Message

The day after Christmas I had one of those moments when my faith was confirmed. My husband asked if I had seen the Christmas Eve news article that announced that the government’s detention center for immigrant children in Tornillo, TX was being closed.

In mid-November, I had joined an interfaith group who journeyed to El Paso and Tornillo to serve as a witness to these vulnerable children and to garner press coverage of their plight and our moral stand of compassion. We gathered outside of the Tornillo encampment. We prayed, sang, and lifted up the values that we wanted to have agency in this world – love, inclusiveness, safety, hospitality, generosity, among others. The most tender and unmooring part was when we fell silent, turned, and watched buses of children being taken into the camp. Unconsciously, I raised my hand, holding up three fingers in Katniss Everdeen’s symbol resistance. (Guess I am not the only one…) Many of the children put their hands on the windows of the bus. We were two groups, wanting to be together, not a hundred yards apart, yet the reality of the policies that separated us felt like a chasm. Their driver honked twice in solidarity, and I thought, “None of us want it to be this way.” For many days after, the inhumanity of the situation continued.

Today, Tornillo is closed! The majority of its children were released to their extended families, and others to permanent shelters. This was a sweet reminder that showing up matters, that love wins the day, that being hopeful is not naïve but rather that spiritual resource that allows us to be resilient.

That I had my faith confirmed on just after Christmas is appropriate. As I shared in our Dec 23 holiday celebration:

“One of the great things about Christmas is that it is a sturdy holiday. Christmas doesn’t wimp out when times are hard – it comes anyway, even if there are hardly any presents, even when there isn’t much food to make a feast with, even if you’re sad, even if the world around you is at war, even if you are living in fear and danger and oppression, Christmas still comes.

And when it comes, Christmas is subversive. Christmas, with its story of an unwed mother and a doubtful father; with its legend of a helpless baby, born in a stable, who was worshipped by some of the wisest, richest men in the world; with its tale of the child pursued by the deadly wrath of kings, who escaped as a refugee to a foreign land far from home.

Christmas, with its ancient, enduring summons of peace on earth, good will to all people, everywhere. You can’t stop a day like that with a little hardship, or greed, or injustice. It will show up anyway, shining the light of a midnight star into the darkest places of our collective lives.

Do not underestimate the power of the manger, and the hope it holds. The Christmas song of the angels is not as innocent as it sounds. It has turned the world upside down before now. It still can.” ( by Kendyl R. Gibbons)

7 Responses to “The Closing of Tornillo is the Christmas Message

  1. Anastasia, this touched in such a profound way. Although I am not a Christian, I understand and have felt the power of Christmas. I am so proud of you and all those who joined your vigil in Texas. You all are a symbol of what is good in humanity. Thank you. This has been a devastating Christmas for Sandy and I and our family. But you’re right. Christmas came anyway, We were comforted by the Christmas Eve Christian service, the candles we held were warm and loving. Our All Souls family have been so wonderful and supportive, as well.. Thank you for that. Your telling of the Texas experience and the resulting closing of the detention center was a blessing to us all. I Thank you. Jerry Dreesen

  2. I so appreciate your being willing and able to take these stands. It is one reason that drew me to Unitarian Universalism in the first place. I am unable due to health issues to be in marches; etc. My only way of really resisting right now is through emails, calls, letters, signing petitions and such. I am happy to be a part of the Beloved Community through All Souls. And I am thankful to you Anastassia and our church members who go to the front lines to fight for justice and equality.

  3. I struggled, this year, to find inspiration in the story and tradition of Christmas. Your words and acts have provided that inspiration, post-holiday, but significant nonetheless. Thank you, Anastassia, for showing up and speaking so eloquently.

  4. Anastassia, Thank you for making this important and highly emotional journey, both literally and figuratively and sharing it with the congregation.

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