Thursday, November 30, 2017

Christmas Means Welcoming Others In

“Then Mary gave birth to her firstborn Son, and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger—because there was no room for them in the inn.”  --Luke 2:7

I think the innkeeper and his wife have gotten a bad rap.  Traditionally they have been portrayed as inhospitable.  Why, we wonder, didn’t they give Mary and Joseph their room?  Or boot someone out who was less worthy and give them that room? After all, Mary was about to deliver.  How hard-hearted can you be—making them go to the stable.

Actually, the innkeepers were very welcoming to this couple in need.  They might have turned them away totally.  But instead they gave them what they could—a humble but cozy stable, private, safe. 

These humble but devout Jewish innkeepers were practicing the true faith—welcoming strangers.  God commanded this basic courtesy of hospitality:  “The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”  --Leviticus 19: 34

God’s heart is open to all who will come.  From the beginning he wanted not just the Jewish nation but also the nations of the world to come to him.   And [God wanted] that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name.” Again, it says, “Rejoice, you Gentiles, with his people.” --Romans 15: 9 - 10

God’s heart is open wide.  He welcomes in all who are willing to  come to him regardless of their tribe or clan.  This was Jesus’ point when he told the Good Samaritan parable where the despised Samaritan cared for the Jewish wounded man.  Being a “neighbor” means welcoming an outsider. 

Christmas is a time for welcoming.  People who don’t worship at any other time of the year will worship during Advent and Christmas—perhaps at Village.  Be on the lookout.  Welcome guests by being as friendly as you can. Leave your friend group and seek out newcomers. 

And in your personal celebrations of Christmas, welcome someone who is alone, grieving, hurting or discouraged.  Or at a party, look for the person standing awkwardly by himself.   

In Matthew 25 Jesus says, “For I was a stranger and you welcomed me …”  Jesus will come to us in the form of a stranger this Christmas.  Will we recognize him?  Will we welcome him?

Prayer:  Lord, show us that your love is so wide and wonderful that everyone is welcome.  Forgive us for restricting your love just to our church family.  May we open our arms to the strangers whom you send to us.  And may we lavish on them your love.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

--Pastor Ken