The Christmas story is reenacted every year all over the world, and each country has its own particular way of presenting this holy event. In Mexico, pastorelas or Los Pastores (“The Shepherds”) have all the usual suspects—angels, the three kings and, of course, the Holy Family—but with one interesting addition: the Devil. Here in the United States, Satan never makes an appearance in the Christmas story, but in Mexico there is no Christmas story without Satan.
In the pastorela, an angel appears to the shepherds who are tending their sheep. The angel tells them the good news that the Savior has been born, and the shepherds then leave their sheep and set out on a journey to find the newborn babe. That’s when Satan enters the picture. He will try everything in his bag of tricks to divert the innocent shepherds from their mission: to encounter the divine.
We all have devils in our lives—some attractive and some not so—working hard to divert us from our goals, our deepest desires. The most insidious and shrewd of these devils sometimes convince us that our true desires are not really our desires at all and replace them with new false gods. The old (true) desires are sometimes forgotten, and we find ourselves going after things we never wanted in the first place that ultimately do not bring us joy. We go against our own best impulses, and that is when good people make bad decisions.
It happens to all of us. I know it has happened to me. There is something about the Christmas holidays, maybe because it is so close to the New Year, that makes many of us take stock and think about our lives and the decisions we have made.
On Christmas Eve, in a small village in the Mexican state of Michoacán, two families are rehearsing a pastorela. As they reenact the age-old story of the struggle between good and evil, they are forced to face their own devils, choices, and decisions.
Conoces una canción antigua
y la conoces bien.
¿Puedes captar un rastro de esa melodía
Muy detro de tu ser?
Tal vez este un poco nublada
Perono del todo olvidada
Es tán fácil olvidar,
pero es un milagro recordar.
You know an ancient song
And you know it well.
Can you catch a hint of the tune
Deep inside you?
Dim, perhaps, and yet
Not altogether forgotten.
It’s so easy to forget.
But it’s a miracle to remember.