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Monday, 7 December 2015

Christmas hospitality

 I was asked by someone in my church to share a story of a past Christmas.  I thought I would include it here as well.

   The Christmas season in North America involves many social gatherings and dinners.  We receive advice from web sites and blogs about how to serve the right foods, decorate in the latest style and create the right atmosphere for our guests to enjoy.  However, what is Jesus’ advice about such dinners and feasts?  In Luke 14:12-14 he says something that we find hard to swallow.  He says to invite people who may not be in our circles, those who don’t normally get invited to these events.  Jesus says we will be blessed if we do this.
   I do not want to pretend that this is what I do every Christmas or Thanksgiving or Easter.  Often I live such an insulated life that I would not even be aware of who needs such an invitation.  Just looking after my own extended family can feel like enough.  However, over the years I have experienced the opportunity and blessing from including people who might not be the typical guests.  I will share one particular Christmas Eve story in hopes that it re-inspire me and perhaps others to find a way to celebrate Jesus’ birthday by following his advice about dinner parties.
   One spring I met a single mother (Kay) and her pre-teen daughter who lived in a subsidized housing complex not far from my rural home.  Kay was bound to a wheelchair and received daily help from a personal support worker.  This initial meeting was followed by me visiting her about once a week, with my pre-school children coming along with me.
   As Christmas got closer, my natural inclination was to invite the two of them over for a meal, but our house was not equipped with a ramp.  Not giving up, we thought of taking hospitality “on the road” and proposed bringing Christmas Eve dinner to the town house and enjoying the meal there all together.  Kay readily agreed.  Her own relatives had not made any effort to include them in a Christmas dinner, it would seem, for many years.
   So it was that on Christmas Eve my husband and I loaded up hot casserole dishes containing chicken, gravy, mashed potatoes and vegetables and bundled children in car seats to go to Kay’s house for dinner.  I also packed a table cloth, grape juice and paper napkins.  Kay’s daughter let us in, not quite sure what to make of this.  She helped set the table, apologizing that not one place setting matched with another.  Even though our forks and knives did not match and the walls bore pock marks from an unwieldy electric wheelchair, our Christmas Eve dinner was a time of warm fellowship.  We brought a Bible and read about the first Christmas before closing in prayer.

   Is there room at your table or in your schedule to include someone who would otherwise be alone this time of year?  It is indeed more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35b)

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