Preparing the way together: Las Posadas at Our Saviour, Arlington

The Church of Our Saviour in Arlington is using an old tradition to build new connections among parishioners and promote prayerful waiting during the Advent season.  Las Posadas is a tradition from Mexico and Central America, and Our Saviour's iteration of it, families bring nativity figures to one another’s homes and share a snack and some prayers, music and conversation.  The nativity figures travel from home to home throughout Advent, arriving back at the church on the fourth Sunday of Advent.  

“We make some snacks and welcome the family that has brought the figures to our home, and then the next night we bring the figures and receive hospitality from another family,” said the Rev. Malia Crawford, Rector of the Church of Our Saviour. “Families may share stories of family Christmas traditions, sing an Advent song together, pray together, whatever builds a sense of community and prayerfulness at the same time.”

The idea of bringing Las Posadas to the Church of Our Saviour came from children’s minister Bernardine Chan, who has a background in Latin American studies.  

“It started with the Sunday school, but she wanted to see if there was a way to adapt it that would allow for intergenerational fellowship,” Crawford said. 

The hospitality of Las Posadas is a nice way for parishioners to connect with each other in a casual but personal setting, Crawford said. The Church of Our Saviour is small, with an average weekly attendance of about 50, but recently the church has welcomed many new families. 

“About 170 new people have come through our door for the first time since January 2013,” Crawford said. “So we’re looking for ways to build relationships and have us get to know each other more deeply.  Even though it started with the Sunday school there’s been such intentionality in drawing people from different walks of life together, helping them have some time together in the home.  In this day and age where the different generations are each doing their own thing, it’s cool that church can be a place where people come together and get to have those intergenerational relationships.” 

There are 15 families involved in Las Posadas, totaling almost 40 people. They include families of all shapes and sizes, including some members of the Church of Our Saviour who are no longer physically able to attend church.  “One family brought the nativity set over to one of our shut-ins, and then the next day [the same family] brought it to the next house. We really wanted them to feel connected to this,” Crawford said. 

Amid the busy Advent season, Las Posadas offers a moment to slow down, connect and meditate on the season of prayerful waiting. 

“In Advent everybody’s lives can be moving so quickly. The practice of welcoming Mary and Joseph into our hearts as symbolized by these nativity figures, gets us to think in a new way–what would it be like for me to welcome the Holy Family into our life, our homes?” Crawford said.  “As we welcome Mary and Joseph in to our homes we ask, how do we welcome the Mary and Josephs of this world into our lives? How can we make sure they have a safe and welcoming place to be?” 

Preparing a place for the Holy Family figures and readying the home for guests is an embodiment of this holy waiting and preparation.  “It’s a very tangible way to think about our faith and stop and slow down, do something a little bit out of the ordinary and enter more deeply into the meaning of Advent,” Crawford said. 

--Ellen Stuart Kittle