Christmas Eve Posadas

Back in September the worship committee agreed it was time to think outside the box rather than do another “Sunday Morning on Christmas Eve” service.  While I was in Cuba, I started giving serious thought to what it might look like to introduce our congregation to Las Posadas.  There are some great resources online – most still moving people from place to place, maybe ending up in the sanctuary.  That was not going to work for my not-so-mobile congregation.  So… I borrowed and adapted some material from a few resources (links at the bottom), pulled some scripture from The Message and wrote a bunch of new stuff to create a Christmas Eve Posadas worship experience.

I wrote this for two voices: one male (italics), one female (plain).  It could easily be split to add a narrator/liturgist.  The congregational responses are in bold face.

Welcome and lighting of Advent Candles

Introduce the Concept of Las Posadas
I talked a bit about how I was introduced to Las Posadas growing up, what I experienced and the history.   

I split the congregation into “pilgrims and innkeepers” but invited everyone to sing as much as they liked. I chose to teach the melody using a little “call to worship” that both pilgrims and innkeepers would sing together. I also included a disclaimer about singing a translation – the syllables weren’t always going to line up nicely, so aim for joyful noise with meaningful words over musical perfection. We went with simple instrumentation – just guitar and piano.

The Story In Song                                                                      Las Posadas
We Are A People Who Follow

From the earliest of ancestors of our faith, we have been a people who wander. Not aimlessly, mind you, but on the move. Listen to these words from Genesis 12:

God told Abram: Leave your country, your family, and your parents’ home for a land that I will show you. I’ll make you a great nation and bless you… all families of the Earth will be blessed through you.

So Abram left, just as God said. And Lot left with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran.  Centuries later, Abraham’s descendants, who had sojourned to Egypt to escape a famine, were held as captive slaves. God called Moses to lead them to a new and promised land of freedom. God led them through the wilderness for decades, providing shelter, food and direction along the way.

For generations after Moses, the nation of Israel rarely knew times of settled security. Kingdoms rose and fell. Foreign empires invaded and occupied the land. But God spoke through prophets.  Prophets who promised the One would come to bring everlasting peace and security.

A messiah, a savior would be born who would create a realm of Justice and peace, where there would be no fear or enemies

Where lions and lambs, wolves and calves, children and snakes would play together

Let us journey together to that kingdom.  We’ll start by singing the first verse together

Come long-awaited Messiah,
Your people long for your presence
Our hearts and minds are on you
As we remember your birth

Please join me in our first responsive reading:

Like our ancestors, we see the darkness around us
And so we come, seeking light, seeking hope, seeking love
Like our ancestors, we follow God by faith
Not because we have answers,
but because we trust God has them
Like our ancestors we await the birth of the Messiah
Come Lord Jesus, light up our night.

**Light a Tall Candle on the Table

The faith of our ancestors, the hope they carried in their hearts, was to be rewarded in the time of Caesar Augustus.  It was then that a census was ordered that required everyone to travel to their own home town to be registered.

This meant Joseph was to travel from his home in Nazareth to Bethlehem. Mary came along with him, even though it was almost time for her to give birth….as in, any day now.  Because of the census, the town was really crowded. Perhaps if they had arrived earlier, someone would have welcomed them.  But by the time they arrived and started asking around, they had very little luck

We Are A People Who Believe
Las Posadas (Verses 2 & 3)

Pilgrims
In the name of heaven
I ask you for shelter,
for my beloved wife
can go no farther.

Innkeepers
This is not an inn
Get on away from here,
I cannot open the door,
For you just might be a robber.

Pligrims
Please do not be inhuman,
Please show some charity,
And our God in heaven
will reward you here

Innkeepers
You may go away now
don’t bother us anymore
because if I get angry
I tell you I will beat you

It had been such a long journey for Mary. The roads were dusty and the air was dry, which made her even thirstier. What had been soothing and sweet movements in her belly had suddenly seemed heavier, stronger, almost as if someone were taking over her body from the inside. Of course, she knew it was the child.

But not having any experience at being pregnant, she wondered if hers was different. If carrying a child of God was different from carrying a regular baby.  Maybe it was silly, but it seemed like a fair question. Perhaps if that messenger made another appearance, she would ask.

She would never forget that encounter. She’d replayed it in her head so many times.  She’d been minding her own business when it happened. The light, the voice… the fear. Starting with the prickles on the back of her neck, then the shiver that ran up from her calves to her shoulders and right back down again. And then…  that feeling of complete and utter trust that what this person(?) was saying was true.  And the certainty that the only possible answer to God’s request was “yes.”

Yes, of course, I will carry the child of the God of Abraham and Isaac, of Sarah and Rebekah, of Hannah and Deborah, of my mother and her mother and her mother’s mother before her.  God has been faithful to my people, no matter how often and how far we have strayed. God has loved me since the moment I was formed. I am God’s servant, so yes.

In that moment, her world had changed. And yet, nothing had changed. She was still a young woman from a nowhere sort of place. She was still poor, as was her family. She was  engaged to a carpenter named Joseph and… she just had to trust that God would make a way for him to understand.

How God would convince the world of what she knew… that this baby was the Son of God most high. Well… maybe if?  No… she had no idea. But she kept her promise to welcome the baby into her womb, into her home, into her future, for the sake of her people.

Mary kept her promise because she trusted that God would make a way, because nothing is impossible for God.

Like Mary, we see the darkness around us
And so we come, seeking light, seeking hope, seeking love
Like Mary, we follow God by faith
Not because we can imagine the outcome,
but because we trust that God can do the impossible.
Like Mary, we await the birth of the Messiah
Come Lord Jesus, light up our night.

**Light a Second Tall Candle on the Table

Mary’s faith and the hope she carried in her heart far exceeded anything most of us can imagine. A young girl, entrusted with carrying the greatest treasure God might offer to humankind.   A young girl, entrusted to a man would had to make sense of a crazy story.

We Are A People Who Trust
Las Posadas (Verses 4 & 5)

Pilgrims
We request lodging tonight,
We really won’t take up much room
Even for only one night
Then we will leave you alone.

Innkeepers
Why are you out late at night?
Don’t you have family to stay with?
It is not wise to wander
Out in the streets all alone.

Pilgrims
We are worn out from walking
all the way from Bethlehem
I am a carpenter
And my name is Joseph.

Innkeepers
Never mind your name,
Go on and let me sleep,
I’ve told you, I tell you again
We won’t open the door.

How hard can it be to find someplace to stay in a town this size?  Surely someone has an extra room that isn’t already filled with family.  You’d think having a pregnant wife might make someone at least a little more willing… whatever happened to good, old-fashioned Jewish hospitality?

I honestly thought this would be easier than being in Nazareth. I get so very tired of the way people look at me.  There goes poor Joseph. Stuck with crazy Mary. At least they’ve stopped saying it out loud.  Along with the other accusation they were whispering just loud enough to be overheard.  

But yes, I had thought that at first, too. Women just don’t turn up pregnant…  

And then to claim it was by way of the Spirit of God… that’s just not the way it works.  Not for most people. But with Mary, nothing ever seems outside the realm of possibilities.  Maybe that’s why God chose her. She has more faith, more trust, more courage than any 5 men I know.  Her heart was so open to the will of the Lord.

I wish I could say I trusted her from the beginning. It took a vision – a dream, really – for God to turn my heart around. I don’t know if it was the same messenger that God sent to Mary, but by the time I woke up… my heart was so filled with love for God and for the woman we had both chosen…  I had to tell her that I would stand by her no matter what.  I just hope I am ready for whatever that turns out to be, ready to go wherever God calls us to go.  Lord, please let this next door be the one that opens with welcome for us.

Joseph welcomed Mary and her strange good news – against all common wisdom – because he trusted God. He trusted God to make a way for them as a family, to make a way for their people.

Like Joseph, we see the darkness around us
And so we come, seeking light, seeking hope, seeking love
Like Joseph, we follow God by faith
Not because we are sure where the road goes,
but because we can trust that God sees beyond the horizon
Like Joseph, we await the birth of the Messiah
Come Lord Jesus, light up our night.

**Light a Third Tall Candle on the Table

And while they were there, the time came for Mary to give birth.  She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She swaddled him in a blanket and then laid him in a manger, because the only place they could find was the room they shared with the animals of the house.

It was cozy there, and actually felt a little bit like home. But they were alone and far from home. They had just welcomed a child full of promise, full of the Spirit of God, full of the wonders of the universe. They had just welcomed a child that would need feeding and changing, lullabies and burping. They had just welcomed the Messiah.

Welcome the Christ Child (Away in a Manger)

We Are A People Who Welcome

There were, of course, shepherds out on the hills nearby with their flocks.  As they did most nights, they took turns watching and dozing. It seemed like just another night, right up to the moment when everything changed.

Las Posadas (Verse 6)

Pilgrims
My wife is Mary.
she is the Queen of Heaven,
she will be mother
to the Divine Word.

Inside
Is that you Joseph?
Your wife is Mary?
Enter holy pilgrims
I did not recognize you.

Mary and Joseph settled into their first night as parents in their makeshift housing. There would would be no settling in for the shepherds. Out of nowhere, there was this blazing light – kind of like a fire, but not hot – just thrilling and terrifying and surrounding them. That’s when they noticed the angel, the source of all that blazing, glorious light. They were terrified! And rightfully so.

Don’t be afraid.

Um. ok. The youngest of the shepherds took a deep breath, swallowed hard and gave it a good try. He looked around to see if he was the only one still afraid. The faces of the older men made clear his heart was not the only one beating like a war drum.

I have come to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, all the people of the world: A Savior has just been born in Bethlehem – the town of David’s descendants. This Savior is the Messiah and Master.  This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:
(both readers) Glory to God in the heavenly heights!
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him!

As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the stunned shepherds blinked and shook their heads. They reached a consensus faster than they ever agreed on anything.

“Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.”

They left, running through the streets of town until they found Mary and Joseph. And of course, the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing.  They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child.  They might have told Mary and Joseph more than once in their excitement.  Everyone who heard them was impressed.

The shepherds returned to the hills and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!

Like those in the houses, we see the darkness around us
And so we come, seeking light, seeking hope, seeking love
Like the shepherds, we follow God by faith
Not because we totally understand the message,
but because we can trust that God still speaks.
Like the angels, we celebrate the birth of the Messiah
Come Lord Jesus, light up our night.

**Light the Fourth Tall Candle on the Table

Scripture tells us that Mary kept all these things in her heart, holding them dear, deep within herself.  As she grew older, these memories must have helped her understand the words her son – God’s son – spoke to those who would follow him:

Welcome the stranger with kindness and love
Seek help when you need it, allowing others to bless you
Welcome God into every room, even the messy ones
Be ready to worship when God reveals his glory

As we sing the final verse of the Posadas, let’s all be pilgrims and innkeepers  (Verse 7)

May the Lord reward you
May God bless and keep you
and may the sky be filled
with light and songs of joy.

May the Lord forgive us,
when we are slow to see
people in whom Christ is dwelling,
and angels bringing good news!

Litany of Confession and Faith
This litany was a cobbling together of multiple Christmas prayers I found online which ultimately spoke to what we believe, where we fall short, what we hope to be in the new year

Carrying The Light to the World
The tradition here has been to light up the sanctuary by forming a circle around the edges and sharing the light of the candles while singing Silent Night. To underscore the need to be light and warmth beyond those already in our midst, the candles were lit as we walked outside to sign and form a circle of light visible to those passing by.   

Helpful resources for Las Posadas (including chords and sheet music) can be found here, here, here (this one downloads) and here and of course by googling.

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