The incense stung my eyes, the flowers weighed down on my already tired arms. I tried to see over the tall flower arrangement that I carried to make sure that I didn’t trip on rocks on the dirt road. At the same time, I tried to look around and soak in the scene. Two teenagers in the middle, carrying figurines of Mary and Joseph who in turn were carrying small bags full of cookies. Eight or 9 people carrying different flower arrangements from the house where they had been displayed for the last 24 hours to where we were walking, where Mary and Joseph would be staying the night. Another 10 or so people carried candles to light the way (and many kids carrying candles as well who were more effective at playing with them than lighting our path). In total, we were a straggling crowd of maybe 50 or 60 people, all walking slowly to allow enough time to finish praying the rosary and singing a number of songs before we arrived at our destination, where we would be pidiendo posada (asking for shelter).
It strikes me that when Mary and Joseph took this journey, they did so alone. Just the two of them, weary from travelling long days. Instead of being received into houses night after night, as they are here where each night since the start of December a different house has offered posada, Mary and Joseph were received only into a barn.
Yet because of that journey that Mary and Joseph took alone, we are able to walk together in community. As we walk with Mary and Joseph, we walk as a town. We walk with towns all over Mexico. We even journey with migrants, some of whom are family members of those gathered in the town, who are crossing the desert, stumbling over different rocks and weighed down by other burdens. We walk with Christians from across the world who are journeying through Advent.
What I didn’t realize before this December is that very little time is spent in the house where we ask for posada. For now, the point is the journey – the blocks that we walk as a community, as a church. Every night to a different house, walking along different roads in the small town. Not until Christmas Eve will Mary and Joseph finally settle in their place and families in the community will lay el niño Dios (baby Jesus) in his manger. So for now we are in movement, but we are in movement together as we walk toward a common hope.