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Posadas Liturgy

A couple of months ago (2016), my church asked me to plan a Posadas Christmas Pageant. Wahoo – this was going to be fun! And it was, but not in the way I was expecting…not at all

For those who are not familiar, The Posadas is a Christmas pageant of Latin America. In it, parishioners and villagers parade, singing carols through the town, walking toward the church, behind Mary and Joseph. Along the way, the two travelers knock on several doors, and each home rejects them as the crowd jeers. It is a pageant of solidarity and support. “We are the people,” the crowd seems to chant, “we would have taken you.”…maybe you’re starting to see the problem. As I started my research, I knew almost immediately – we can’t celebrate this pageant, not in this way, not with a large group of Anglo Americans.

I was watching, heart in my hand, as Donald Trump wrapped up his campaign for presidency, politicizing the migrant crisis with chants like, “build a wall,” and “keep them out.” Over the past year, I had been called an idiot and naive by family for remembering refugees in the mealtime prayer. I had received a letter of reproach from our Senator for publicly supporting the admission of Guatemalan minors into our state. I had spent weeks in the summer culling hate mail out of my inbox after I relayed the facts of a proposed resettlement in baldwin county, adjacent to my family’s land, to a community bulletin. For weeks, I was sent accusations of my ignorance and self-loathing, not-so-subtle reminders that these brown people would take our rights and ruin our schools, that our playgrounds would become drug-lots, that my backyard would soon be a haven for gang violence. I watched as the yards of my dearest friends and family filled with signs of support for Trump, a man who provoked and capitalized on unfounded fears about terrorism and rape – who meant to make us too afraid to have faith, too deaf to hear the gospel, and too blind to see the holy family.

At the time of Trump’s tweet a total of 2,200 out of the 4.8 million Syrian refugees had been admitted to the US since the conflict began in 2011. A whopping 67% of applicants for Obamas meager 2016 goal of 10,000 are children under the age of 12. My heart was broken – it remains broken. For my friends and I, it is as though the generation who raised us to be a voice of compassion, were refusing to see Christ in the face of the other. Confronted with our tears and unrest, our parents chose silence over curiosity, unable to tolerate or express even the idea of faith-driven hospitality – a hurt so deep I know I will never recover.

After much prayer and a tentative admission to my priest about my concerns, it became quite clear that we needed to design a pageant that would surely feature knocking and doors. But when those doors opened, it needed to be us on the inside, and them on the out. We needed to use the Posada rhythms to forge a way toward realization, repentance, and invitation. We also needed to leave room for subtlety, we needed to extend grace to those who hadn’t seen the Holy Family through this lens before. Mercy and not shame were our goals. This would not be easy.

So we started trudging forward. It would be three acts, one for rejection, one for repentance, and one for welcome. The door would open and close once on the posada icon. The door would then be opened on the cross before the final litany – which would be read from the audience, an offering of sacrificial welcoming to the unknown other, in faith that Christ’s call of radical hospitality is worth following. Click the link below or the picture above for a PDF of the liturgical script with direction prompts.

Posadas Liturgy

The Journey by Francesca Sanna

What a gift – this book! A perfect companion to Tomie De Paola’s The Night of Las Posadas, or as a stand-alone introduction to the reality of Refugees. The illustrations are absolutely bananas, and the words are pointed and perfect. Without being too much, or overwhelming, this story is told simply, from the perspective of a migrant child, fleeing war. It create sympathy in adults and empathy in children. The questions it leaves unanswered allow for fruitful and important conversations. This book has my full support. If I could hang it on my wall I would. I want prints from it. I want to give it to all of my friends…and I just may.

The reason I chose to feature this book review with this liturgy is simply this: The purpose of our “pageant” is to ground the Christmas Story in a reality that is close to home. We wanted to take the narrative away from the great catholic commissions of the renaissance, and allow the heart to open a little more to the stranger beside us right this instant.

 

 

I am Mary. 14 years old, A political refugee, shameful to my family and my betrothed.

Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Caravaggio – they gave you someone to celebrate – white-faced, pristine, and lovely. But that is not me. I am the one you despise. It is into an oppressed and terrified body that the God became flesh. Logos into chaos. Filthy, the dust of war on my face, The savior in my belly.

I think we miss the gospel…because it looks too much like the cover of Newsweek, and not enough like the art in our museums.

O Come, Emmanuel

candle

“No one can celebrate
a genuine Christmas
without being truly poor.
The self-sufficient, the proud, those who,
because they have everything
look down on others,
those who have no need
even of God – for them there
will be no Christmas.
Only the poor, the hungry,
those who need someone
to come on their behalf,
will have that someone.
That someone is God.
Emmanuel.
God-with-us.
Without poverty of spirit
there can be no abundance of God.”
Oscar Romero

 

  • 3.1 million children will die this year of starvation.
  • There have been 972 deaths in 236 mass shootings since 2012 (Courtesy of Stanford Libraries, Stanford Mass Shooting in America)
  • Due to world wide war and famine, there are 59 million forcibly displaced peoples, half of which are below the age of 18.
  • Since June 2014 ISIS has executed 10,000 men, women, and children – many for simply being gay, disabled, Christian, or hoping for democracy.
  • The United States of America, once a beacon of hope and asylum, has turned its back on refugees, disdains the religious freedom of its minorities, and fears the diversity that once made it great.

O Come, Emmanuel We are truly poor

I have spent the last month trying as best I can to identify, engage and verbalize the unnoticed emotions that have grown in my heart over this past year. I have found fear, hopelessness, and sadness.

And in these tucked away places, I have experienced grace upon grace during Advent. The scriptures have comforted me, saved me, reminded me that what is broken will be mended, and that darkness does not win.

Thankfully, these statistics are not the whole story. God is moving. But just because my stockings are hung with care and my Christmas tree is beautifully lit does not mean that these things are not horrible facts with which we are all still living.

We must take the time to find the black of our deep despair so that when the light comes, we can drink it in like Holy Wine. This is Advent and Christmas. Life and Hope are meant to address the reality of a sadness we have recognized.

During the first part of December, we realize that, no matter how ingrained Dicken’s Carol is in our Christmas sentiment, the December season is not about being better givers, it is about becoming desperate receivers. We are anguished for salvation from the violence, starvation, and hate that makes us weak and frustrates our hope.

What this season demands is difficult. It is easier to deny ourselves an Advent Season.

Unless you are ready to be poor, and helpless, to have a deep desire and to finally feel those things from which we all run – December will be just another season of dissociation. Christmas will come; we will sing praise to a Savior we did not know we needed; we will be disappointed that the 25th did not meet our expectations; the year will turn over, and we will start again. Too many evangelical churches with their rush to fill seats, create and deliver a sentimental mishmash of ecstatic emotions – emotions that almost always fade into the darkness they were created to ignore.

But if you can just have the faith that darkness faced will not be darkness won you will discover that Christ.Will.Come…..and He will win.

God has spoken to my fear about Islam and Israel –

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse…the Sprit of the Lord will rest on Him…The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.” – Isaiah 11:1, 6-7

God has spoken to my helplessness about the hungry. Over my inadequate, selfish and insufficient giving, searching, saving, loving — He has whispered:

“Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! … You eat the curds, clothe yourself with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost….

So I myself will search for the sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so I will look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they are scattered…I will tend them in good pasture…there they will feed in a rich pasture….I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.” Ezekiel 34

There is still time to refuse the sentiment, to listen to the deep, to pay attention to the tears, weaknesses, and limitations of your self, the world, and your government. Advent is a time to suffer with meaning, to suffer toward meaning.

And then. And then.

The hope of redemption might break out on Christmas day, and you might worship Him more fully, having had the courage to really know and see that from which He will rescue you.