The local La Posada street religious festival, set for Friday in uptown Martinsville, is more than a commemoration of the biblical journey that Joseph and Mary made from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of a safe refuge for the birth of Jesus.
Pastor Mark Hinchcliff said it’s also about the angel’s announcement that Mary will give birth to the Christ child to be given to the world and about all those who came to worship the newborn king.
Hinchcliff is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Martinsville, which is coordinating the event with such other churches as Forest Hills Presbyterian, Rich Acres Christian, St. Joseph Catholic, and from Danville, Sacred Heart Catholic.
The event will be the local version of the popular Mexican Christmas tradition Las Posadas.
"It includes lovely traditional Spanish-language songs about the birth of the Savior," wrote Mark White, pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church. "Then everyone eats a festive nighttime snack."
It will be a procession on foot through multiple scenes of the event. For example, after the first scene, the costumed characters will leave that scene and join the onlookers as they walk to the next scene, and so on. An Aztec-type dance team will lead the procession. Guitarists, violinists and singers also will take part.
"The Aztec-style dancing is a cultural project a group of our parishioners have been working on the past few years," White wrote. "It represents the strength and exuberance of the Mexican people."
Each scene will be narrated in English and Spanish. Christmas hymns will such at each scene.
La Posada, which will have five re-enactment scenes, will begin 5:30 p.m. in the parking lot in front of the Martinsville Municipal Building, at 55 West Church St. The first scene will depict an angel announcing to Mary and Joseph, that shewill give birth to the baby Jesus.
The second and third scenes will be next to each other in the municipal parking lot on Broad Street, One of the scenes will depict Mary and Joseph looking for lodging.
Luke 2: 4-7 (King James Version) says: “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger: because there was no room for them in the inn.”
The other scene in the municipal parking lot on Broad Street will depict shepherds in a field. This scene represents Luke 2: 8-20 (King James Version), which says in part: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
The next scene will be at the alley-way parking lot between Church and Main streets. It will depict the visitation of the magi, or wise men, from the east, who had followed a star, their journey taking them first to King Herod and then young Jesus.
The passage in Matthew Chapter 2 (King James Version) about that incident says in part: “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures they presented unto him gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.”
The final scene will be at the Historic Henry County Courthouse, at 1 East Main Street. There will be a full Nativity scene, Scripture readings, traditional Mexican food such as tamales and other dishes, and piñata breakings.
The event is free and open to the public, Hinchcliff said, adding that he expects it will last until 8 p.m.
“Last year, over 300 people showed up,” he said.
Hinchcliff said observing La Posada, which means “inn,” is important to this area, in part, because “there is a pretty large Hispanic worshipping community. It’s important we recognize all cultures. This is a way to bring together the English traditional Christmas pageant and the Spanish tradition of La Posada.”
“Weather conditions may be chilly – bundle up,” Hinchcliff said. “A little bit of uncomfortable conditions is part … of what Mary and Joseph experienced originally [on their journey to Bethlehem].”
A flier for La Posada describes it as “a fun-filled experience that the whole family will enjoy.” It adds, “Visit some of the uptown businesses that will be open late.”