Service of Las Posadas (Shelter) for the Holy Family
The taste for the dramatic reenactment of Luke's Christmas story is strong across the American church. Witness the many living nativity scenes, drive-through crèches, and "Bethlehem Walks" churches do or sponsor during Advent and Christmas.
A service of Las Posadas (Shelter) draws upon Mexican custom and practice. It is a highly communal and participatory liturgy. It is dramatic and contemporary, and it engages people in imaginative and biblical recollection of the story of God coming into the world and of the holy family's searching for a place for Jesus to be born.
In brief, the enactment takes place at the door of a house in the latter days of Advent (or the church on Christmas Eve). There a conversation takes place between Mary and Joseph — accompanied by the people — and the householders who resist their requests to gain entrance. The dialogue uses biblical texts as a way of rehearsing the need for repentance and faith. Finally, all are admitted to celebrate a fiesta of food and fun, including children whacking at the piñata until the contents cascade down for all to enjoy.
These services may be scheduled for one or more nights between December 16 and 24. They may be planned and led by laity. These highly participatory services, which are both liturgical and evangelical, include children and youth in the drama. With the Hispanic population of the United States increasing rapidly, many communities — even small towns and rural areas — now have significant numbers of Latin American people. The journey theme of the Latin American experience connects with the spiritual search of contemporary life.
You will find resources for Las Posadas in The United Methodist Book of Worship(UMBOW) in two places:
UMBOW, 266-268. Here you will find resources for Advent observance with an extended introduction that you may adapt for use in newsletters or announcements to introduce the service and orient the people. These services take place at homes in the community. Large congregations might plan to do these services in several neighborhoods.
UMBOW 281-284. Here you will find resources for a Christmas Eve Las Posadas. The service is intended to take place at the church building. The service may or may not include sermon and Holy Communion. Much of the dialogue may be sung to the familiar tune of St. Kevin (United Methodist Hymnal, 315) or some other tune.
For additional descriptions and practices of this customary service, see:
For a Spanish language page on Las Posadas, go to: