Wednesday, December 7, 2016
The Counselor is Inn - Reflections from a Christmas Party
Every year, I wonder if I'll be invited to any Christmas parties and, if invited, whether I'll attend. Since becoming a Lay Counselor for All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, I know that we'll always have at least one invitation. But this year, with me feeling downcast because of recent national events, I was wondering if I could be up for the cheer. Last night, at the Lay Counseling Ministry Christmas potluck, I felt refreshed and enlivened.
As we gathered, many of us talked about our recent fears for our country. There's something about sharing our concerns and sadness, our vulnerability and our worries, in a setting of joyful anticipation that seems cruelly ironic at best, or at least woefully inappropriately timed. But it felt soothing to know that there are others who are in the same boat I'm in. I felt at ease being the safety net (or safety pin) for others, as they were a safe place for me. We could share in trust.
You sort of expect that, given that this was a group of people who offer themselves up to listen and offer counseling to other parishioners in a professional, discreet fashion. The ministry offers 10 free sessions with a counselor to any parishioner who needs an ear, a sounding board, a wailing wall. Though we will refer you to professional psychologists if your situation puts you in harm's way, we are able to support many in the community for a few months. And last night, we supported each other.
In doing so, we were able to smile and laugh and be merry. It refreshed the spirits.
One moment at our dinner table stuck with me. In our discussions, it came up that in many Spanish-speaking countries, there is the practice of the "posada" in the week before Christmas. In villages and cities, people go from home to home, eating, drinking, laughing, sharing stories. It symbolizes the way Mary and Joseph had to go from inn to inn to find a place to stay. Rather than turning the stranger away, the modern custom welcomes these wanderers into their home for food and warmth.
Now, when I say inn, I'm not talking Marriotts, Hiltons, or even Motel 6s. The concept of a modern inn didn't exist yet. Instead, people in the time of Jesus would go from home to home to see if there was a place for the traveler to stay and rest. The innkeeper was us. So when Mary and Joseph were turned away at the inn, they were turned away by normal people, people like us, because we had no room.
Or, perhaps, we made no room for the strangers among us... for the strangers who came to us in time of need.
And then Stephen and I noted that the word "posada" did not technically mean journey or party, but was the Spanish word for "inn". When people celebrate the posada, they celebrate the refuge itself, the place of safety and rest, and comfort.
It didn't occur to me until this morning during my daily meditations and prayers that all this came together into a common dialogue. But it made the night's festivities seem more meaningful to me.
We don't always feel able to offer refuge to the journeying wanderers in our lives. Sometimes, we just turn off the lights and lock the doors, to our homes, to our hearts. But we are reminded that if we do, we don't make room for joy, we don't make room for solace. We don't make room for the baby Jesus.
May your posada be full of joy and open to those who come knocking on your door. May your journey take you to the place where hope and warmth comforts and consoles you. And may we all recognize that in the belly of that stranger who comes to our doors lies the Christ who has come to bring us the Good News and Light.