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Last year, I went to St. Patrick’s Auditorium and saw what’s called a Posada.

Posada — which is Spanish for “inn” — is a Christmas festival in Latin America that dramatizes the search Mary and Joseph made for lodging more than 2,000 years ago.

A man named Jorge told me the Posada reminds us of when Jesus came to us.

And how he came poor — with nothing.

I watched as a man portraying Joseph pulled a large stuffed toy that looked like a donkey on boards with small wheels.

On the donkey was a woman dressed as Mary, the mother of Jesus.

The two went from door to door in the auditorium, portraying the Holy couple looking for shelter in Bethlehem.

***

Many of us know the story of how an angel came to the Virgin Mary and said she’d become the mother of Jesus the Messiah.

Joseph was betrothed — or engaged — to Mary, and in those days a betrothal was kind of like a marriage. It was a binding agreement.

So when Joseph found Mary was pregnant, he planned to divorce her quietly.

He must have been heartbroken and confused.

Poor guy.

Joseph probably thought he’d just get married and have a family — but life didn’t seem to be going like he’d thought.

Then an angel came to Joseph and told him to take Mary as his wife, because that which was conceived in her was from the Holy Spirit.

She would have a son and they’d name him Jesus and he’d save his people from their sins.

Joseph made Mary his wife, but then Caesar ordered that a census be taken and people were supposed to go register in the town of their ancestors.

So Joseph and Mary left Nazareth and went to Bethlehem.

Scholars say the trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem was about 90 miles and was a grueling trek.

And considering Mary was soon due to give birth, she and Joseph probably only made about 10 miles a day.

They most likely traveled south along the flatlands of the Jordan River west over the hills surrounding Jerusalem and on to Bethlehem.

The area in the valley of the Jordan River was forested and had animals like lions and bears and wild boar.

Other areas had rough, hilly terrain.

The roads sure weren’t paved with asphalt.

And robbers were common hazards along major trade routes, so people often traveled in caravans for protection.

Even if Mary and Joseph traveled in a caravan, I wonder if it wasn’t a long, lonesome journey.

After all, they had a great responsibility.

Mary was carrying the child who’d become the Messiah. She and Joseph were given the task of raising the one who’d save people from their sins.

That had to be daunting.

When they reached Bethlehem, it was overcrowded due to the census.

So they had to find a place to stay.

***

I watched the Posada and saw the young couple going from place to place — up and down aisles — in between tables — from door to door only to be turned away and I got a sad, hollow feeling.

How many doors did Joseph knock on to find a place to stay — a place where they could find rest?

It must have been discouraging if he had to knock on too many doors.

And can’t we relate in a sense?

Maybe we’ve prayed: “Lord, please open the doors where I should go and close the ones where I shouldn’t.”

And how many times have we thought we saw a door start to open with:

  • The possibility of getting a good job?
  • The opportunity for a wonderful, new relationship?
  • A breakthrough in a health situation?
  • The fulfillment of a longtime goal?

And just as the door started to crack open — and we moved toward the door — it slammed shut.

That’s hard—especially when we had hopes and dreams tied to it.

Because even when we try to tell ourselves not to get our hopes up too much, don’t those daydreams have a way of sneaking in?

We dream about that new possibility and then our hopes get smashed.

Life doesn’t turn out like we’d hoped for.

Things don’t always go as planned.

And that’s sort what was happening to Mary and Joseph. They’d probably dreamed of settling down and raising a family in comfortable, familiar surroundings.

And nothing was going according to plan.

How many doors were shut in their faces? It might have been one. Or more than one.

But the point is — they kept going.

And even when they couldn’t stay in an inn—they found a place in a stable, which scholars say was probably more like a cave that had donkeys and a few sheep.

It was there that Jesus was born.

Not in a fancy hotel.

Not in a mansion.

Not even in a comfortable home like Joseph and Mary might have imagined.

But that stable was a good place where shepherds could go.

Don’t you love how God sent an angelic host to announce Christ’s birth — not to the rich and prominent or to religious leaders — but humble (and maybe somewhat grimy) shepherds in a field?

Those shepherds hurried to see baby Jesus and left ready to spread the good news.

The news of Christ’s birth has changed the world.

And it continues to change people every day.

People who are making long, arduous journeys.

People who’ve quit counting the doors that have slammed in their faces.

People for whom life just hasn’t turned out as expected.

We really do serve a God of miracles.

It’s true that Joseph was warned in a dream to take Mary and baby Jesus away, because the child’s life was in danger.

I’m sure that wasn’t part of Joseph’s plan either.

And it’s true that Jesus would grow up and his mother would see her brutally beaten son die on a hard Roman cross.

I’m sure that wasn’t part of her plan.

Yet, we serve a God who turns crucifixions into resurrections.

Who breathes new life into broken dreams.

And who can give us hope.

***

I kept watching the Posada and, eventually, Mary and Joseph made their way to the auditorium stage.

A gold-colored curtain closed and then opened.

And when it did—there was Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus.

(Don’t you wish all labor and delivery situations were that easy?)

Anyway, it made me think that while many situations don’t turn out like we’d wanted — they can turn out better in the end.

Mary did see her firstborn son suffer and die, but I believe she later saw him resurrected.

And I believe she’s in heaven with him today — which has to be the best gift a mother could hope for.

The little kids, who watched the Posada, were so excited.

Part of the reason may have been because they were going to get to try breaking a candy-filled piñata afterward.

As Christians, we know we have something so much better awaiting us.

We have eternity with our Savior in a place where every tear is wiped away.

I don’t believe it has rough terrain. It certainly won’t have robbers or ferocious animals. I don’t think any doors will be slammed in our faces.

Instead, we’ll know the warmth of a loving welcome and peace that surpasses all understanding.

And the Savior who never left us — but traveled the long, hazardous, lonely roads with us — until he could bring us home.

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Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She writes a weekly spiritual column.

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