After my series of Barra posts in the summer I plan to do another series on my time with a hardworking, passionate coastal people but this time in Barcelona. I went there late November to discover a new city and in the process discovered a whole new country, language and cause to fight for. Next year in Catalonia!
But for now, this Christmas Eve, I thought I would share a wonderful new tradition that I, a Presbyterian in a foreign land (this time England) was entirely unfamiliar with. Having had a year where I dabbled with writing liturgy, attended a highland Catholic mass, visited more cathedrals then you can shake a stick at (or should that be a thurible?), participated in a pilgrimage procession and I even – whisper it – (sensitive low Protestants may wish to cover their ears) – threw flowers on the relic of a saint…
it’s fair to say I’ve climbed a few inches up the candle.
So there’s just time before this year ends to throw in a vibrant Mexican tradition for good measure. Las Posada (lodging) is a nine day celebration where originally an actual expectant young couple, but in lieu now in rural Cheshire, a beautiful pair of figurines take turns to stay a night at a different family where a candle and prayer is lit. The pair in the photo above will this afternoon reach the church where they will take their position in the midst of all the families clutching their orange creations (Christingle, also a first for me). Tomorrow the Mary figure will no longer be pregnant – why would she?
The point of this tradition is to weave together an expectant community with the pretend hospitality towards this expectant pair. Through this pretending we end up genuinely welcoming one another and fitting in time to make a little space in our lives at this busy time to pass the figures on to the next house. Hospitality happens. I have been reading recently that our idea of Mary and Joseph isolated away from it all with just the animals for company does not really square with what we know of the warm, vibrant hospitality of middle eastern culture. People then didn’t compartmentalise like we do, the lines between stable and box room were pretty thin, likewise between guest and host, family and stranger.
Jesus was born, as he always is, in the midst of everything.
So Christmas is the incarnational carnival where things change irrevocably but not shockingly where ultimately there IS room and there IS space. Easter is the subversive gig but Christmas is the immersive gig where there is room for everyone. We humans have always gathered together to ward off the dark, long before Christmas, Christmas is not surprising – of course we eat lots and light big lights and draw together against the cold and of course the son of God joins us in the chaotic midst of it all.
It just makes sense.
So however you celebrate it – have a wonderful, Merry, Merry Christmas.