Jesus Is The Hospitality of God

Jesus Is The Hospitality of God

Christmas in Mexico begins with Los Posadas, a nine-day reenactment of Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging in Bethlehem.

The children gather each afternoon for nine consecutive days leading up to Christmas. One child plays the role of the Virgin Maria. Another is San Jose. Others are the angelos. Others are the Santo Reyes (three wise kings). And the rest are pastores (shepherds). They are decked out in colorful handmade costumes and carry faroles (paper lanterns). They form the parade of Santos Peregrinos (Holy Pilgrims). They go from house to house requesting posada (shelter). They sing outside the front door:

En nombre del cielo buenos moradores dad a unos via’jeros posada esta noche.

In the name of God, we ask those who dwell here, give to some travelers lodging this evening.

From inside the house comes back the reply, “This is not an inn, move on. I cannot open lest you be a scoundrel.” The children go on singing, explaining that they have traveled from Nazareth, are tired, and that Mary is expecting a child. All to no avail.

For eight days they seek shelter and are ritually turned away. Finally, on Christmas Eve, they are told that there is no posada in the house but they are welcome to make posada in the stable. The doors are flung open, all are invited to enter, and song and dance erupts. Children take swings at piñatas and scramble for the fruit, sugar cane, peanuts, and candy that come cascading down. It is called Los Posadas.

What a wonderful way to teach children that at the heart of Christmas is hospitality. They experience first hand the refusal of shelter for eight days before tasting the sweetness of welcome. They experience a world that fears the stranger and believes them to be scoundrels. They experience closed doors, un-welcome, and in-hospitality. Children are given a crash course in the kind of world that Jesus entered and that we live in today.

God has found hospitality in Mary’s womb and now he walks the streets of Bethlehem seeking it elsewhere. Will God sleep in the streets on his birth night? The innkeeper redeems humanity with a welcome to a stable, most likely a cave. And God’s first breath of human air is a mixture of filed hay, animal poop, damp earth, and cold cave.

Welcome home, God.

It doesn’t get much better. Before Jesus is out of diapers, he’s a refugee on the run from Herod. He flees to Egypt (most likely as an undocumented person) and makes his home far from family and friends. He lives in a land that does not hold good memories for his people. Later in his life, Jesus will say that he has no place to lay his head. He travels from city to city, dependent on the hospitality of others. At his death, he is laid to rest in a borrowed tomb at the hospitality of Joseph of Arimithea.

In the words of John’s Gospel, “He came to his own and his own did not welcome him.” Here is God—homeless, a vagrant, a refugee, needing a bed, a bath, and a meal, and finally buried in a borrowed tomb. We humans can be downright inhospitable.

This God has provided posada – a garden with food, water, air, shelter, safety, clothes, and companionship. God has thought of everything we need and shared it freely. What a gracious host. And even there in the garden, we raid God’s tree to rid ourselves from being dependent creatures on God’s hospitality.

Again, in the exodus from Egypt, God provides manna and quail, water flowing from rocks, guiding beacons in the sky—posada in the wilderness. Then God leads us to a land flowing with milk and honey, figs and pomegranates.

The story of Jesus is an ongoing story of the hospitality of God.

It baptizes us into a family with a warm bath, feeding us at his table from his own life, standing on the front porch waiting for the wayward ones to come home, and going to prepare a place for us that has many rooms.

In the first century, one of the distinctive practices identifying Christians was hospitality. They offered food and shelter, help for the needy, safe places for respite, open arms, open tables, and open doors. As people watched this practice of the early Christians, they saw likeness to God.

Sometime, somewhere, the parade of wandering humanity will come to your door asking for posada. They will need your resources, your space, your time, your help, and your home. In offering posada to the least of these, you offer it to Jesus.

This post was first published on DanBoone.me in December 2014.

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