So, has anyone driven around the neighborhood to look at all the beautiful Christmas lights that decorate many homes? If you have, you may have noticed that many of the newer homes and developments in our community are built without front porches. But, peak around back and you are likely to see very large back decks and patios. Why do I bring this up in the middle of December when no one in their right minds are hanging out anywhere outside (porches or decks)? Because it speaks very clearly to who we are as a culture. Back decks are private… for family and close friends only. Front porches face the street… the wider community of acquaintances and strangers. As a general rule, our personal and family lives are quite private. This is the norm in our culture. We choose who, what, when, where, why, and how we are going to interact with the outside world and the people in it. As a general rule, our personal and family CHRISTMAS is much the same. We share ‘hospitality’: celebration and gifts and meals, with a select few of those we love (and who love us in return), but we don’t necessarily extend the celebration to those we don’t know (the ‘strangers’ in our lives).
In Jesus’ day and culture hospitality was important. There are many Bible stories that focus on showing hospitality to others (especially the stranger). In fact, failing to show hospitality to the stranger was socially unacceptable and would bring shame. So, what is the very first thing that happens to Jesus? He’s born in a feeding trough in a stable yard because there is no room at the inn. No hospitality. This will forever link the coming of Jesus with the call to welcome the stranger and extend care, celebration, gifts, meals, service, etc. to those whom we DON’T know or DON’T love:
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (Luke 2:6)
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. (Luke 6:32-33)
So, the question is this: have we extended any kind of Christmas hospitality to the stranger this year? If not… there’s still time.