Pray give us lodging, dear sir, in the name of Heav’n!

All day since morning to travel we’ve giv’n,

Mary, my wife, is expecting a child;

She must have shelter tonight.

Let us in, let us in!

You cannot stop here, I won’t make my house an inn;

I do not trust you, your story is thin.

You two might rob me and then run away—

Find somewhere else you can stay.

Go away! Go away!

Tonight at 5, our church will once again enact “Las Posadas,” a singing drama which remembers Joseph and Mary as they tried to find a place to stay the night. The singing that goes on between those inside and those acting as the holy couple on the outside continues over several stanzas as the ones inside realize that they are closing their doors to the King of Heaven.

In the end they are horrified, begging forgiveness for their blindness as they welcome the holy family inside. Once inside, a great celebration erupts.

In a unique way this year, we sense that this is not just a re-enactment but perhaps a transformative repetition. We sense a great fear among our neighbors, along with all that fear leads us to: closed hearts, closed minds and closed doors. We are grieved at the possibility that we — our city, state and nation — could become like the inn-keepers and shut our doors to travelers on the road.

All the Nativity characters hear from the angels, “Do not fear,” as an introduction to the incredible news they receive. They are blessed because, in the middle of their bleak circumstances, they set aside their fears and recognize and embrace the Good News. They become actors in God’s story of redemption, a story of how God became flesh and moved among us, showing us in word and deed a new redemptive way of being.

Our hope is that all Christians and fellow citizens will use this Advent season to take this Nativity story off the shelves of our minds, take it beyond all the pageantry and cantatas and reflect on how this ancient tale connects with our present attitudes and priorities. Where has fear blocked us from experiencing God’s true Good News?

Where has fear caused us to shut ourselves off from those who are different — the refugee, the immigrant, the difficult ones or those who ask something of us? Where has fear stymied us in our ability to open the doors of our lives, much like the innkeepers did with Mary and Joseph? Who are we today in God’s story of redemption? Mary? Joseph? Innkeepers? King Herod?

Because we are all made in God’s image, we have the possibility to reflect and to self-correct so that we might live in a new reality where a spirit of openness and hospitality can allow us to see God’s incarnation in the most vulnerable among us. We call on all of us to find tangible ways to express the Good News of God’s incarnation, both in small and personal ways as well as in systemic and institutional manners.

May we offer a sanctuary to immigrants, refugees and displaced people, demonstrating that we have listened and learned and wish to participate in God’s story of redemption. And may this season find us extending grace, compassion and hospitality to those who are different from us.

Joseph, dear Joseph! O how could I be so blind?

Not to know you and the Virgin so fine!

Enter, blest pilgrims, my house is your own;

Praise be to God on His throne!

Please come in! Please come in!

Nancy Gatlin, Fernando Arroyo, Joe Gatlin, Matt Porter and Ruth Boardman-Alexander represent the pastoral team of Hope Fellowship Church. Since its first service in 1994, it has grown in membership and established strong relationships with the World Hunger Relief Farm in Elm Mott and the Shalom Missions Communities. It worships and meets in Spanish and English and believes the body of Christ should be a “new humanity” in accordance with Ephesians 2:15.