The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Celebrating Advent

Traditions move communities toward Christmas

"En el nombre del cielo, os pido posada," sing the pilgrims as they move toward the altar. "In the name of heaven, I ask you for shelter." The singers and guitarists at St. John Lutheran Church, Sacramento, Calif., are re-enacting Mary and Joseph's search for hospitality in Bethlehem.

It's a search that happens every year in communities in Mexico, where Las Posadas (the inns or shelters) takes place over nine nights. Participants playing the roles of Joseph and Mary travel from door to door, asking for "room at the inn." Turned away by one "innkeeper" after another, they are finally welcomed into the last home for prayer, a meal and a celebration with their companions on the evening's journey.

Worship leaders of St. John Lutheran
Worship leaders of St. John Lutheran Church, Sacramento, Calif., celebrate Advent with Las Posadas, the Mexican-American tradition that re-enacts Mary and Joseph in search of hospitality.

An Advent tradition in Mexican-American Roman Catholic churches, Las Posadas has a distinctly Lutheran flavor at St. John, where a Sunday that begins in Spanish ends with a lutefisk supper.

To prepare for Las Posadas Sunday, the Callo family — from Peru — whips up a few hundred pork and chicken tamales. The Mexican, Peruvian and Anglo musicians learn the same version of songs that vary by region. Jose Luis La Torre and Scot Sorensen, pastors of St. John, craft a dialogue sermon in two languages that gives everyone listening a "whole" sermon.

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