The Holy Family Commutes
One community's adaptation of Las Posadas shows how an ancient story can become a living reality.
It is in the shelter of each other that people live.
"They're here! They're here!" shouts four-year-old Tommy. His mother opens the door as he jumps up and down. Standing on the porch is a family of three from our church community, and they are carrying three statues-one of Mary, one of Joseph, and one of a camel. The sculptures of flat hammered brass, about 18 inches tall, are modern and elegant in their simplicity. "Do you have a place for these visitors to stay tonight?" asks the family at the door."We do! We do!" Tommy says. "Come in!"
The family brings the statues inside and places them on the coffee table next to an Advent wreath. During the next hour the two families share hot cocoa, ginger cookies, laughter, and an evening prayer. After warm goodbyes, Tommy closes the front door. He asks if he can show Mary, Joseph, and the camel to his toys, and one by one he carries the statues to his room. There he introduces them to his trains and stuffed animals and many dinosaurs. Before Tommy crawls into bed, he places the travelers carefully on his nightstand, and has a long conversation with them in the darkness.
A scene very similar to this one will be repeated many times in our community during the weeks of Advent. It is our church's annual enactment of Las Posadas (meaning "lodging" or "shelter" in Spanish), a traditional celebration from Mexico that commemorates the Holy Family's search for a place to stay in preparation for Jesus' birth.
In our adaptation of this ritual, statues of Mary, Joseph, and a camel are taken from home to home for four weeks, with each individual or family hosting these guests overnight. The hosts, in turn, carry the travelers to another home.
As church members deliver and receive the figures, they have the opportunity to share music, food, conversation and friendship with two other families. They also record their thoughts and prayers in a cloth-covered journal that accompanies the Holy Family from home to home. At the end of the month-long journey, Mary, Joseph, and the camel arrive at our church on Christmas Eve. They are placed in a larger Nativity scene, and their arrival is woven into the beginning of our Christmas Eve service.