La Posada is a venerated Christmas tradition across Latin America. In Spanish Posada means “lodging”, “inn”, or “accommodation.” Las Posadas are a re-enactment of the Bible story of Mary and Joseph who, while sojourners in Bethlehem, were forced to seek shelter on the night of Jesus’ birth.
In many Latin American countries, La Posada is truly re-enacted. Two people will dress up as Mary and Joseph, and certain houses are designated to be an “inn.” The head of the procession will have a candle inside a paper lampshade. The procession walks from house to house asking if there is space for them in the inn. At each house, the resident responds by singing a song until Mary and Joseph are finally recognized and allowed to enter after having asked many houses for lodging. Once the “innkeepers” let them in, the group of guests come into the home and kneel around the Nativity scene to pray. In some places, the final location may be a church instead of a home. The procession is followed by musicians who sing traditional posada songs, which is then followed or accompanied by Christmas carols (villancicos). Children will break open star-shaped piñatas to obtain candy and fruit hidden inside, and there is a feast of a variety of traditional foods and sweets.
Having just come through my second Christmas season living in Tijuana, Mexico, I have had the opportunity to attend several Posadas. However, I have to say that my favorite one yet has been the “Posada Sin Fronteras”—the Posada Without Borders.
At this annual event, we gather at the border wall that divides the United States from Mexico. People come together on both sides of the wall to read the nativity story, lift up our prayers, and unite our voices in songs of seeking refuge.
And as we gather here, at this infamous symbol of division and fear, this binational Posada takes on added significance. In our current time, when the idea of welcoming the stranger—and immigrants themselves—are so much under attack, the image of two nations coming together to honor the pilgrimage made by Mary and Joseph is a powerful witness to how we continue to be called to treat our neighbor with compassion, justice, and mercy. This beautiful tradition reminds us of the incredible importance the Christian faith places upon having hospitality towards the stranger.
In the traditional Posada song, after Mary and Joseph are finally given refuge, it says:
“Are you Joseph? Your wife is Mary? Enter Pilgrims, I did not know you/Fortunate the house that shelters this day the pure virgin, the beautiful Mary/ Fortunate this house that gives us shelter; May God give it its sacred happiness.”
As I stood in that sacred space, listening to those holy words, I was reminded that every single day we are each an innkeeper who gets to decide if there is enough room for Jesus.
My prayer is that every chance we have to say yes, we will.
And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me.’
Iglesia Metodista de Mexico, Tijuana, Mexico
GMF International, Class 2014