One of my favorite Christmas traditions has become the re-enactment of Mary and Joseph's search for a place to stay in Bethlehem. These Posadas, meaning inn or shelter in Spanish, are an important part of Advent in many Latin American countries. During the years I lived in Honduras and El Salvador, I was blessed to participate in the Posadas many times. Walking on dark paths, candle wax dripping onto one hand while the other was held by one of our many children, I learned new songs and stepped more fully into Christmas. After a few years, I even delighted in the inevitable mischievousness of some of our kids as they played with their candles or began a game of tag along the way (of a "serious" procession). Their mischievousness brought delight because it demonstrated that they felt safe enough to behave as children are meant to from time to time. In a home for children who have suffered so much before coming to us, that is reason for joy.
Even after moving to Bolivia, we celebrated the posadas as a part of our NPH family tradition since they are not a tradition there. The children loved learning about the cultures of their brothers and sisters in other homes, trying their hand at making piñatas, and soon we decided to share this fun event with our neighboring village. San Ignacio de Sara is a small village near NPH Bolivia, and each year we would find a few families to participate as "innkeepers". We would wind our way through the village, ending up at the humble church, usually with nearly 200 people. As we knocked on the wooden doors of that church, the children would sing "come in holy pilgrims..." and the townspeople would enter. What we shared during those special evenings went beyond the piñata, hot chocolate, and carols. It was a sacred encounter with our neighbors. And in that encounter, we caught a glimpse of God.
Last year in early December, the students of the leadership program here in Seattle asked when we were going to do the Posadas. It hadn't even occurred to them that we wouldn't do it. And so, for the past two years our students have had the opportunity to practice their leadership skills by bringing this tradition to Seattle. It has been fun to watch them share the traditions they bring from their home countries, and decide together how to share that with people here in the Northwest.
For me, the best part of the posadas is when we arrive at the final home. The doors swing open and all are welcomed in. All are welcome. The procession of the posadas invites us into the journey, reflection, and the waiting leading up to Christmas. The final home invites us into community, celebration, and new life. We are invited to dance and sing and worship. In the midst of our terribly broken world, we extend a hand to each other and say ‘come in', just as you are; and then we can celebrate Jesus' birth together.
Kara served with Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos as volunteer and staff, from 2006 through 2010. She recently started a graduate program in Counseling Psychology at the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and directs the Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos Leadership Program in Seattle.