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Powerlessness & La Posada

I had never heard of La Posada until we moved to San Diego, but it is quickly becoming one of the things I most look forward to during the Christmas season.

La Posada is a Mexican Christmas tradition which reenacts Mary and Joseph seeking a place in Bethlehem.  For nine evenings from December 16 to December 24, families and/or neighbors take turns hosting a posada (which means inn). A couple dresses as Maria and Jose and knocks from door to door until they are finally let into the home of the hosts where they are welcomed and celebrated.

The traditional Posada song alternates as a sung conversation between the potential innkeepers and the desperate parents, until at last they find shelter at the hands of the last innkeeper.  The words are hauntingly human.

Joseph: In the name of Heaven/ I beg you for lodging/ For she cannot walk/ My beloved wife.

Innkeeper: This is not an inn/ So keep going/ I cannot open/ You may be bad people.

Joseph: Don’t be inhuman/  Have mercy on us/ The God of the Heavens / will reward you for it. 

Innkeeper: Better go on / And don’t bother us/ For if I become angry/ I shall have to beat you up.

Joseph:  We are worn out / Coming from Nazareth/ I’m a carpenter / My name is Joseph.

Innkeeper:  Your name doesn’t matter/ Let me sleep/  For I am telling you /  We shall not open.

Joseph: Lodging is asked of you/ Dear man/ For just one night/ By the queen of Heaven.

Innkeeper: Well, if it’s a queen/  Who solicits it? /  Why is it that at night / Does she travel so alone?

Joseph: My wife is Mary/ She’s the queen of Heaven / And is going to be the mother/ of the Divine Word. 

Innkeeper: Are you Joseph?/ Your wife is Mary?/ Enter pilgrims/ I did not know you.

Joseph: May God pay, senores / Your kindness/ And thus the heavens heap/ Happiness upon you.

Innkeeper: Fortunate the house  / That shelters this day / The pure virgin /  The beautiful Mary. 

Joseph: Fortunate this house / That gives us shelter/ May God always give it/ Its sacred happiness.

We have only attended La Posada for the past two years, but each year,  it is has made the powerlessness of Mary and Joseph palpable to me (and hopefully to my children as well, as the older two have attended).

Added to the beauty of the enactment is the location of the particular La Posada event we attend. La Posada Sin Fronteras is a combined ecumenical effort between people in Tijuana and San Diego. For the past 26 years, it has taken place at Friendship Park, a park that is split by the U.S/ Mexico border. In decades past, the event happened directly along the fence, so closely that the Posada song was sung back and forth from Mexico to America.  However, more recently the event has been moved further back. Last year when we went, we had to shout to hear one another. This year, due to flooding and the inaccessibility of the park, we had to do the event at a different park where the wall was visible but in the far distance.

Oddly enough, we ended up walking around the outlet shopping center parking lot that juts up right to the border line. It was a strange situation, walking around, singing Christmas carols,  and hearing the names of the those who had died trying to cross the border this past year while Christmas shopping was going on all around us. The juxtaposition made it even more eery. There is nothing wrong with shopping. To be honest, we bought a soccer ball on the walk back. It was just the juxtaposition of different realities that was sobering.

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As I was processing the experience today, I felt a profound amount of gratitude for Mary and Joseph’s vulnerability and faith.

They said yes to the strange and utterly unexpected task of carrying and raising the Christ child in vulnerability and faith.

They had no choice but to travel late in pregnancy. Their opinion or needs would not sway the strong political system. So they went in vulnerability and faith.

They were even powerless over where they might labor to bring forth the Christ child. They literally, as the song so powerfully enacts, went door to door and put their needs out there in vulnerability and faith.

They were powerless over their next steps even after the delivery. They had to take a detour to Egypt to protect their newborn’s life from the jealous rage of a political power. They obeyed God’s warning in vulnerability and faith.

Many years later, Mary would stand at the foot of the cross where her beloved son, whom God had protected as an infant, would be crucified unprotected so that we might take refuge in Him.  She watched in the agony of vulnerability and faith

We all have places in our lives where we feel powerless. Powerless over family relationships. Powerless over our employment. Powerless over our addictions. Powerless over our anxiety and depression.

The Gospel invites us to be present at the foot of the Cross where the all-powerful One became powerless on our behalf. We are now filled with His power. But we are expected to wield that power in the same manner that He did (and that his parents before Him did) in vulnerability and faith.

There is a precious, fictitious children’s book written around the event of La Posada Sin  Fronteras, if you are interested in helping your children imagine a family split by the border seeking to celebrate together.

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