As we transition from Thanksgiving celebration into Advent, joy and melancholy make their way in as well.
Seasonal changes, not only in weather conditions but emotional as well, allow us—and challenge us at the same time—to be open to new possibilities in life. In addition, such kind of transition sets a perfect stage to pause in life in order to be grateful for the days that have passed and grateful for those days yet to come.
Sometimes, if one is not careful enough, one can err believing that life will not dissipate; therefore, it seems to be that we are invited to lay down, at least a piece of our agendas, and reinvest that time in nurturing more meaningful relationships and cultivating new ones.
Consequently, as I begun to prepare myself for the holidays, I thought that one of the best ways to do was by reflecting on the nativity narrative, especially the journey and its imagery.
On one hand, proxemics, or distances, may vary from one culture to another. General and culturally speaking, for most Hispanics, the personal distance, eighteen inches to four feet, is the space for close relationships between family, friends and brethren. This might also explain why we express affection with a handshake, a hug and or a kiss while greeting each other.
For the most part, this affection expressed by Hispanic culture is most likely to happen inside of the eighteen-inch distance. For some other cultures, this proximity could be perceived as an invasion of personal space. Understanding space distances helps to understand how individuals and groups relate to one another. Therefore, in my view, spaces and relationships walk hand in hand with each other, and one needs to be aware of it.
On the other hand, there is also something impressive about transitions. They test our faith and abilities for survival as much as they also provide a fertile terrain to deepen our beliefs. In addition, somehow, people that are swimming through this vast ocean of uncertainty know that there is going to be a Divine intervention and good will on their behalf—something much needed nowadays.
God has imprinted His love and grace as well as a good will and hope for a better tomorrow in humanity’s heart. Therefore, the challenge and demand is to use these gifts—including everything that one is and possess—for the common good, to build and honor human dignity and not to destroy it.
As I reflect on Jesus’ birth narrative, I began to ponder about Joseph and Mary as they were seeking for a ‘posada,’ a place to stay. They were poor and marginalized; they too felt “the whip of the master” as proclaimed in the Imperial decree to be registered.
This decree was not an attempt to improve the still broken healthcare system where the poor is condemned to a fee for not having one. The decree was not for the approval of a comprehensive immigration reform nor was this decree to bring justice and equality to a society plagued with discriminatory acts. Sadly, this edict was mostly for taxation purposes, it was a vicious action of the powerful wanting to control and to have more.
Joseph and Mary wanted a place for their child to be born. They were seeking shelter or “posada” and a community where they could be welcomed just as they were and not to be judged for their language accent or by the color of their skin. Maybe, they were looking for a community of faith to connect with and to grow in a deep meaningful and close relationship.
In the midst of these conditions, God provided divine company through a host of angels singing joyfully and through nature; a cosmic sign—a shining star—was leading the way. Then, He also provided human warmth; shepherds and wise men witnessed the incarnated God amid humanity.
If we are going to take one thing today, may I suggest considering the proximity of the three wise men, the shepherds and God’s. It seems to be that everybody was very close to the manger but more so, to Joseph, Mary and to the Child. It is hard to assert that Joseph was asking for space or that he was asking for a hug. Instead, I would like to suggest that this narrative seems to imply that he and his wife were happy of having many guests in their lives.
Amid our neighborhoods and churches, we can easily find misfortune and afflicted souls in different ways seeking a kind hand and for ‘posada’ a resting place to be restored, just like Joseph and Mary. Perhaps, some of us need someone to talk to or a friend.
Therefore, may I suggest the following; let us rebuke holiday commercialization and instead, let us nurture and welcome the human touch as an expression of holy proximity to humanity.
Christ, the divine and best Christmas gift ever, wants to be closer to us; we should consider doing the same and we should consider enhancing our openness toward relationships especially with people that are different from us.
As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, let us acknowledge God’s presence in the midst of life and let us hold in prayer those in the midst of despair seeking justice, love and hope for a better tomorrow. Let us accept the challenge to allow people in our “personal space” and let us lend our shoulder to those that are seeking a place to dwell, “a posada” where they can lean on and find comfort and hope amid brokenness.
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors”
(Luke 2:14 NRSV).