One of the advantages of living in an urban setting is being surrounded by people whose practices and habits often collide with our need for privacy and way of life. I can still recall how our leisurely Saturday mornings were often interrupted by a knock at the door. Usually, the knock would come early in the mornings.
My parents and the other adult siblings would be sipping café or canela (cinnamon tea) with pan dulce (a Mexican pastry), while the younger crowd would be glued to the cartoons of the day. It was always the same ritual: knowing well who was knocking at the door, we would deliberate on whether we felt like listening to the Jehovah’s Witnesses on this particular day. It was not so much that we dislike them, but, somehow, we knew that opening the door would disturb our own sense of comfort and privilege. Besides, the idea of having to “accept Jesus as our personal Savior and Lord” — on the spot — seemed to us like an overwhelming task for such an unhurried morning.
As I think of the Hispanic Catholic tradition of Las Posadas or the biblical story and re-enactment of Joseph and Mary in search of shelter (Luke 2: 4-7), I can see connections to my Saturday morning experience. Growing up Hispanic and Catholic meant that each Advent and Christmas season was a time when we, as children, were invited to the local church for the festive celebration of Las Posadas.
Together as one faith community, we would role-play the migrant journey that Joseph and Mary experienced in their lives. Each evening celebration was an opportunity to respond to the knocking at our door — the choice was always there, to either reject or welcome Joseph and Mary into our homes. At the end of each night of Las Posadas, there would be plenty of prayers, songs and food: the children would process up to the altar to receive a small brown bag full of candies and goodies for our own terrestrial and spiritual journey. The ninth and final day was extra special because we would have a big fiesta with a piÃ±ata bursting with sweet delights!
Now that I look back at these experiences, I can see how significant they were in forming my faith, and how much spiritual meaning they can hold for all of us today. Mary and Joseph continue to knock at our doors, disturbing our own sense of comfort and peace.
Joseph and Mary, too, offer us the chance to welcome the infant Jesus with the best of our hospitality. As I continue to reflect on Las Posadas, I believe they can provide for us an opportunity to reassess how we can live out our Gospel values in service to one another, moving us away from individualism to a richer communal life.
In Las Posadas, God invites us to think anew about who might be knocking at our doors and to open, in faith, the door to our hearts so that others may feel welcome in our home. In our own holiday re-enactments, we can choose to either reject or welcome Joseph and Mary as they knock at our doors. God waits for our response.
F. Javier Orozco
First published December 21, 2010 in the St. Louis Review