This begins a series of posts exploring the wisdom Christian and Jewish scripture and tradition offer as we strive to respond faithfully to immigration justice issues. The Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham, AL, presented a Christmas pageant using elements from the Spanish celebration of Las Posadas to highlight the experience of seekers of refuge and a new start throughout the ages and in our own time.- Ed.

The pageant begins:

READER #1 (SHEPHERD): There are many ways to commemorate Christmas. One of them, common in the Spanish traditions in the Southwest, is Las Posadas. The Inns. In some places this is done for nine nights preceding Christmas, in others nine houses are visited in a single night, or nine rooms in a building.  A procession led by figures of Mary and Joseph, the parents-to-be of the infant Jesus, goes from place to place, searching for an inn in which to stay.

READER #2 (WISE PERSON): At the time of Caesar Augustus, a census was ordered. Everyone was required to travel to their own home town to be registered. So Joseph traveled from where he lived in Nazareth to his ancestral home in Bethlehem. His betrothed, Mary, accompanied him on the journey despite the fact that she was pregnant.

READER #3 (SHEPHERD): Scripture tells us that when they arrived in Bethlehem, they had difficulty finding lodging in the crowded town and finally had to settle for an animals’ stable. It was there that the road-weary parents gave birth to their first-born child, and made a bed for him in the hay of the animals’ feeding trough because there were no better accommodations.

READER #4 (WISE PERSON): The story of Mary and Joseph seeking refuge is a story repeated by refugees, immigrants and exiles in many times and places throughout the world. It is the story of the Sojourner, the Pilgrim, searching for a new land and a new life.

READER #5 (WISE PERSON):  It is our story as well. We have all been sojourners of some type at some time in our lives. We have all sought refuge and safety, sustenance and security. This morning, let us rejoin the journey of the refugee, the immigrant, the forced traveler, and in the spirit of this holy season welcome one another into La Posada, the Inn: a house of refuge and hospitality.

READER #4:Sometimes, though, there were times and places when residents of the land benefited by the gifts of the visitors, who brought education and medical enhancements, and shared a living, transforming faith that offered justice and reform, and new spiritual understandings.

READER #5: Right here in Alabama, many immigrants feel unwelcome because of a new law that many feel is unjust.  The law is causing people who live and work in this state to leave and keeping new people and new ideas from coming to join us.

READER #1: Come with us, Traveler, come join us, Hosts! We will continue to search for La Posada of the promised realm of new life and freedom for all!

(Read the complete pageant.)

The Birmingham congregation enlisted the help of a team of people who are not generally involved in children’s  religious education to write, direct, and produce this multigenerational effort. How is your congregation bringing the contemporary stories of migrants and refugees into the worship life of your congregation this season?  What alliances are you building to create effective programs and worship? Send us your stories!

Sharron Mendel Swain is Director of Religious Education at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham, AL.  She worked with a team of congregants that included Ginny S. Loggins and Andy Duxbury, both active in community theater, and Tommy Thompson, who is a music educator.

About the Author
Gail Forsyth-Vail
Gail Forsyth-Vail is the Adult Programs Director in the UUA Faith Development Office. She is a Credentialed Religious Educator, Master’s Level, who served congregations for 22 years before coming to the UUA in 2008. The 2007 recipient of the Angus MacLean Award for Excellence in Religious Education, she has written or developed many religious education resources for UUs of all ages. She and her spouse, P. Stephen Vail, are proud and happy parents of three young adult Unitarian Universalists.


  1. Karen Brown

    A couple of years ago, at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship, I created a worship service called The Legend of the Ponsettia by Tomi dePaola. After hearing a story in a covenanted group told by a Columbian immigrant, I was deeply touched. I asked Karol if she would help me with the pageant. She invited her family and friends. Her mom lent us her statue of The Lady of Guadalupe. I displayed my Mexican Nativity and one member told me she had never seen a creche displayed at the Fellowship. Karol read in Spanish. I read in English. Our children took on the roles of the people in the Mexican village. I was personally moved by our intention to create a multi-cultural opportunity at Christmas time. One committed young adult member of our congregation from Columbia felt moved to be part of our community that set the stage for outreach to her family and friends to be part of our community.


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