Friday, December 09, 2005

Los Posadas

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29

Running on our last ounces of energy we needed to rest, we needed to find our motel room.

Late one December evening, my brother, sister and I drove to Arkansas for a family funeral. Because of work schedules, we left about 10 PM and had a five and one half hour drive to reach our destination. We siblings rarely get that much time to visit, and before we knew it we crossed the state line.

Over an hour later, the digital dashboard clock showed 3:30 AM, and we drove into the parking area of a motel where our reserved double room awaited. All talked out, we were ready for slumber and rest.

Los Posadas, meaning the inn, is a traditional festival of Mexico that reenacts the searching-scenario of Joseph. In Bethlehem of Judea over 2,000 years ago, Joseph and the full term Mary hunted for a place of rest. The timing or mission was not of their choosing. The Roman government required each person to return to the town of their ancestry to be taxed.

Bethlehem, packed with the obligated, didn’t have room for one more citizen, not even a woman in labor. Innkeepers shook their heads. But Joseph, bent on finding a place to nest, kept inquiring about lodging. Finally, someone pitied the burdened man and woman and pointed toward an animal shelter.

Los Posadas is remembered in Mexico and now in the states through a house-to-house search for a dwelling place. At night between December 16 and 24th , by candlelight a group of adults and children carry figurines of Joseph, Mary and the Christ Child. They walk a community street, and at pre-selected homes, they knock and inquire if they can find lodging. As they reach a house, the group led by Joseph, sings in Spanish “En nombre de cielo. In the name of heaven, I ask you for posada, for my beloved wife can walk no more.”

The homeowners turn the pilgrims away and sing in answer, “This is not an inn, keep walking. I will not open, you might be a thief.” Each night the travelers are refused refuge until the final house is reached. On that night, the innkeeper sings, “Posada I give to you, Holy Pilgrims, and I beg your pardon, I had not recognized you.”

At this last home, the seekers are welcomed for a feast and a candy-filled piñata for the children. The first Los Posadas took place in Mexico in 1538 when missionaries came to the new continent.

On the starry night in Bethlehem, someone gave shelter to the weary Joseph and Mary, and Jesus was born that night. Thirty years later, lodging for the tired and sin sick became central to Jesus’ message. “Come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Like my siblings and I, most have experienced physical exhaustion from journeying. Another kind of weariness comes about from complications brought on by sin in our own lives or loved ones.

Jesus gives long term respite for souls. Jesus is posadas, an inn, a place of rest. He stands ready to lift the baggage from our hearts. The Christ taps on the door and seeks entrance. Welcome Him. He’s the best houseguest you’ll ever have.

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