Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Journey of Las Posadas

Dear Friends,

When I was young, one of my favorite things at Christmas time was when my mom and dad took us kids to Olvera Street for Las Posadas. Olvera Street is considered to be “the birthplace of Los Angeles” and is where you’ll find the oldest house in the City. The Olvera Street adobe and brick buildings were restored in 1930 and today you’ll find a block-long, tree-shaded, brick-lined market place that ends at the historic plaza. “Las Posadas” is a Catholic-Mexican tradition that commemorates the journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem and the search for a place where Jesus would be born. You could feel the excitement all along the narrow, colorful street as we waited for Las Posadas (The Inns) to begin. You first heard the singing and then saw a teenage Mary riding a small donkey lead by a teenage Joseph. There was a bunch of kids, about my age, dressed as either shepherds or angels and all were singing and carrying candles. As the crowd passed us, we joined the procession as it made its way down the street. “Mary and Joseph” stopped at every shop entrance asking for shelter and were turned away until they reached their final destination. The “inn-keeper” invited them in and everyone was served a Mexican hot drink and cookies. Things were far less inclusive in the early sixties, but it never seemed odd to me that we were one of the very few non-Catholic, non-Mexican families who took part in this Christmas tradition on Olvera Street!

We can think of Las Posadas as a metaphor for the Advent season. Jesus knocks on the doors of hearts and He’s either rejected and turned away or He’s invited in. Jesus invites us to come and live within Him and He will live within us. John 15:4 You can ignore Jesus the rest of the year, but He’s in your face from Thanksgiving day until Christmas. That’s why this is a very tough time of year for atheists. Immanuel means “God with us” and while Jesus is with us year-round, you definitely can’t escape from Him at Christmas time! Even atheists cannot hide from the “God with us” for He is with them too. From the music at the mall to the nativity scenes, the songs and images of Jesus Christ are everywhere we go and that means that the atheist must be constantly and continuously rejecting the Son of God.

Last Friday we were at our favorite beach restaurant on a very cool, overcast day so we were happy to find that the outdoor patio heaters were working. The only other one braving the outdoor patio was “Peggy” and her small dog. She’s a regular at the restaurant as we are. We’ve talked with her before and so we asked what she was doing for Christmas. She told us about a trip that she and some of her children were taking to South America. After sixty-four years of a happy marriage, her husband had died a year and a half ago and she began to talk to us about the loneliness and emptiness of her life without him. I heard her sadness and saw her eyes fill with tears.

God prompted me to turn this conversation toward Him and I asked her about her faith. She said, “I’m going to disappoint you both because I always see you pray before you eat, but I’m an atheist.” She had been uncertain about God throughout her life and at the age of seventy-two decided that she just didn’t believe. She told us that one of the hardest things about being an atheist, and not believing in God or in an afterlife in Heaven, was the realization that she would never see her husband again. I asked her if she ever prayed. She shook her head “no” and I told her that we would start praying for her. I told her that we were both strong Christian believers who believe in the efficacy of prayer and I told her that I was also a pastor. She said she hoped that we would still like her and we assured her that we still did. We all finished our lunch at the same time and the three of us stood to leave and we said goodbye. Peggy turned away to walk down the steps toward the street but then stopped and turned back. “Don’t forget to pray for me,” she said. “I’m leaving Wednesday and pray for my plane trip. I’m not afraid of terrorists but bad airplane mechanics. Please pray that I have a safe flight.” We assured her that we would. 

The Advent journey is the journey of Las Posadas. No longer is it Mary and Joseph but Jesus Christ who is knocking on the doors of hearts all across the world and inviting us to come and abide in Him and He in us. It started with us asking Peggy how she was going to spend her Christmas this year. She apologetically but firmly explained that she did not believe in God or prayer. But then as she was leaving, she not only asked for our prayers to the God she “didn’t believe in,” but she asked specifically for God’s protection of her and a safe flight. At some point during our conversation, the Holy Spirit intervened and Peggy opened that door to her heart just a little crack. Just enough to wonder again. To maybe hope again. This is why I love Advent! I know that our conversations with her will continue...

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Pastor John. Hopefully more people will learn about Las Posadas, a very special "awaiting" event that brings people together. Feliz Navidad.