|“Las Posadas” by Maria Laughlin|
As Christmas approaches, we are reminded that a very pregnant young woman and her patient fiancé were once left out in the cold. They made their way to the town of Bethlehem hoping and praying that someone would have a place for them to stay… but there was no room.
As Luke tells us:
Joseph went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.
There was no place for them in the guestroom.
That translation from the Common English Bible got me thinking about what it means to be included.
Notice… it doesn’t say that they were full. It doesn’t say that there wasn’t room. It says that there was no place for them.
The first weekend of December, I made my way to Cherokee, Iowa and our yearly Christmas gathering. My mom is one of seven children and almost the whole family was there. Along with significant others and kids and grandkids. Four generations gathered under one roof.
On Sunday afternoon, thirty-seven of us all crowded into the living room around the Christmas tree to exchange gifts. And with each warm little body pressed into that space there really isn’t very much room.
But no matter how little room there is, no matter how many people there are, there is always a place for each one. There is a place on someone’s lap, or squeezed together on a couch, or at the foot of someone else. There is always a place for you. And it just wouldn’t be the same without you.
It warms my heart to see all of those people in that room. Even those who are not able to be there have a place… they are in our hearts. They are present in our spirits. There is always a place.
Luke reminds us that the Lord of Lords crept into this world on a quiet evening and that there was no place for him. There was no place for his unmarried mother. There was no place for the man who would be his earthly father. There was no place.
I hear in that statement that there was no welcome for them.
Who wants to take in a pregnant girl in the middle of the night?
Who wants to deal with these strangers who didn’t have enough sense to plan ahead?
Who wants to give up their spot?
In some Mexican and Latin American communities, the tradition of Las Posadas reminds folks of the absence of hospitality Mary and Joseph recieved. In the days before Christmas, processions go from house to house and request lodging. The host for each evening turns the people away… until the final night, Christmas Eve, when Mary and Joseph are finally allowed to enter and the people gather around the nativity to pray.
I wonder, however, how many times we enact Las Posadas in our communities and our churches without realizing it?
How many times have we turned our backs to someone in need who came to our doorstep?
How many times have we been angry at folks who came late to an event?
How many times have we looked in judgment at an unwed mother?
How many times have we moved away from the homeless man who sat next to us in the pew?
How many times have we told people through our words or our actions: There is no place for you here.
Our God crept into this world to make sure that we all had a place. He came as a child to make us children of God. He came and was rejected so that we might never be rejected again. He died so that we might live.
Before he left, Christ reminded his disciples and reminded us:
Don’t be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me. My Father’s house has room to spare. If that weren’t the case, would I have told you that I’m going to prepare a place for you? When I go to prepare a place for you, I will return and take you to be with me so that where I am you will be too.
There is a place for you. That is what Christ tells us. That is what Christ shows us. That is what Christ gives us.
May our churches and our homes and our hearts be transformed by Christ so that might always be true.