Room for the Christ Child
By Deirdre A. McQuade
December 11, 2009
Every Christmas, people from Mexico and other parts of Central America celebrate Las Posadas, a nine-day novena of prayer, song, and hospitality built around Mary and Joseph’s struggle to find lodging in Bethlehem. Families walk from home to home, singing their request for shelter. But owners reject their uninvited would-be guests, turning them away with excuses like: “we’re not running an inn” or “you could be a thief.”
The “pilgrims” are finally received humbly by the last home each night, where they often sing: “Posada os brindo / Santos Peregrinos, / y disculpa os pido, / no os reconocía” (“I offer you hospitality / Holy Pilgrims, / and for not recognizing you / I apologize”). They then host one of the nine nightly parties with more songs, a shared meal, and a piñata for the children.
Having received the hospitality of others, neighbors then offer it in turn. The nine-day vigil prepares the whole neighborhood to receive Jesus Christ in Holy Communion on Christmas, celebrating God’s generosity to us.
The children – and by extension, all the family members – learn what it means to make room for the unborn Christ Child and his parents in their own lives: “Entren Santos Peregrinos, Peregrinos / Reciban este rincón, / que aunque es pobre la morada, la morada / os las doy de corazón” (“Enter, Holy Pilgrims / Take this little corner of our house, / even though it is a poor place to stay / we give it to you with all our heart”).
Like Mary, some pregnant women today face many challenges and may need our hospitality. This is especially for mothers expecting an unexpected child. Whether rich or poor, they require welcome in an age when the unborn child is seen as an unwelcome burden – and, at times, even as a threat.
Tragically, abortion is often offered as a violent response to that perceived threat. But this “choice” is the ultimate failure to recognize a great gift wrapped in the living gift-wrap of a mother’s womb! The Posadas invite us to welcome the unborn child as a precious guest “with all our heart,” even when we may have little to offer.
Maternity homes for unwed or displaced mothers offer such hospitality in a tangible way every day. The Gabriel Project, a parish-based program, brings pregnant moms together with “angels” who befriend them, get to know their needs on a personal level, and offer ongoing support and care both before and after their children are born. Pregnancy care centers provide confidential services and referrals for women in need – some of whom are tempted to abort their children. All such organizations help women and their families realize that it is never impossible to do the right thing, and that the answer to a crisis pregnancy is to eliminate the crisis, not the pregnancy.
This Christmas, through the motherly intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, may we and our families receive the Christ Child into our hearts, recognize all the vulnerable holy pilgrims in our midst whether born or unborn, and share the little we have “en el nombre del cielo” -- in the name of Heaven.
Deirdre A. McQuade is Assistant Director for Policy & Communications at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For a novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe, go to www.usccb.org/prolife/programs/rlp/2009/liturgyguide.pdf (pp. 9-11).