Often when we hear the word hospitality we think of having friends over for dinner. Churches have hospitality Sunday, where you invite another family for lunch. Hospitality is comfortable, people we like with good food. But the core aspect of Middle Eastern hospitality extends beyond people we know and welcomes strangers. It is offering our best for the comfort of others.
The Christmas story has been told countless times. It is so familiar that we overlook so of the crucial points. Other times we rush straight to the birth, or the shepherds, or magi. In doing so we miss one small but crucial statements and fail to acknowledge its profound applications for following Jesus today. ‘There was no room at the inn’ writes Luke. (I told you it was familiar.)
Middle Eastern culture prides itself on hospitality. So, the rejection of Mary and Joseph is remarkable. It is easy to envisage a grumpy inn-keeper having been woken at night turning them away. I’m not sure this is an accurate picture. Some suggest the term for ‘inn’ can also mean a room in a private house, perhaps a family member. Regardless, this couple, nine months pregnant were rejected. There was no place for them. It is staggering that in the entire village of Bethlehem there is no room for Mary and Joseph.
It may have simply been that all the inns were full – they arrived too late. Maybe it was too scandalous. Here was a girl who became pregnant before her marriage and her only explanation was God. Perhaps they were turned away because she was too pregnant. Deliveries are never quiet. Other guests would be disturbed if the baby was born. There is no explanation. The door of hospitality was shut in their faces. The story is so familiar but it should challenge us now.
Advent is your invitation to offer hospitality to Jesus
The Advent season is a time of expectant reflection. It is a time for Jesus followers to expectantly remember Jesus’ birth and anticipate his return when he will set things right. Echoing through the season is the refrain “Let every heart prepare him room.” The Christmas season is all about hospitality. It beckons us to make room within our lives for Jesus. We are called to welcome him in.
Hospitality isn’t easy. Jesus knew this. The man whose birth was rejected by innkeeper found a welcome on a wooden cross. But even in this, he extended the arms of hospitality. What was costly for Jesus was the way we could get to know God.
Making room for Jesus is costly. To make room for Jesus means embracing him and inviting him into all aspects of our daily life. I wear sunglasses outside which affect the way I see the world. Making room for Jesus is like this. It is filtering our life through Jesus. Jonathan Martin said “God disrupts everything.” Just think about his birth. He disrupted Mary and Joseph’s life. Disruption hit the village of Bethlehem. Angels broke in on the night-time watch of shepherds. Magi began an international journey.
God’s disruption didn’t end in Bethlehem. The Christmas season explodes into our society each year. The shops become decorated. Parties increase. Christmas lights draw us to take walks along the streets of our communities. And Santa and his elves make their annual vigil to shopping centres everywhere posing for photos. And in the midst of this noise God breaks in asking you to make room for him.
What is crowding Christ out of your heart in this season, and how can you begin to let go of it?