In the nine days leading up to Christmas, Mexicans celebrate a series of posadas to remember the journey of Mary and Joseph before Jesus’ birth. In a posada, the community marches and stops at various locations to “pedir posada” (to ask for shelter) with songs and Biblical readings. They are refused at many places along the way until they are finally received at the final stop.
As we celebrated a posada for the migrants last Saturday, I considered the parallels between Mary and Joseph’s experience in Bethlehem and the journey of the migrants.
I never faulted the innkeepers in the Biblical story. They didn’t turn Mary and Joseph away out of malice. Their considerations were very practical. The rooms were all booked. Joseph hadn’t thought to call ahead and make a reservation. He wasn’t willing to wait his turn in line. How would I feel as an inn guest asked to share my nice, quiet room with a very pregnant woman?
While I was driving with my best friend this week, she asked “have you ever thought about what would happen if you invited a homeless person off of the street to live in your house?” Numerous practical concerns came to mind. Sustainability. Enabling. Dependency relationships. Simple generosity unable to solve systemic problems. Objections just as legitimate as those that the innkeepers presented to Mary and Joseph.
And then of course there are the many migrants who ask me “we receive North Americans with open arms in Mexico – why do they not welcome us in the same way?” Again, there are some legitimate reasons for an orderly immigration system. To promote integration and a better life for immigrants in the country. To manage state and local budgets. (Side note: there are also solid economic reasons for a more liberal immigration system.)
As I return to Georgetown it seems to be time to think more realistically. To develop policy proposals that give me a legitimate chance of winning fellowships. To think concretely about immigration reforms that might actually pass and how I can make money to support myself even in a future focused on helping immigrants.
And yet. Sometimes in our hospitality we are called to be radical and not just practical. Because sometimes by being radically and uncomfortably open to receiving the stranger we actually might be inviting in Jesus’ parents. We may be opening a space for Jesus to lie his infant head.