Thursday, 25 December 2014

Welcome, stranger

Gospel Luke 2:15-20
House shrine Assisi
When the angels had gone from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they hurried away and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; it was exactly as they had been told.

It may be a surprise to learn that the word ‘hospitality’ doesn’t mean what we think it means –like many words it has lost something in translation and in tradition.
These days we imagine that it means having friends and loved ones around the table. To be generous to those we love; to celebrate togetherness. As hopefully many of us are able to spend the Christmas season.

But, the reality is that hospitality means to welcome the stranger; to treat a stranger with warmth,  as a friend-

-as the innkeeper found it in his heart to welcome Joseph and Mary despite the fact he had no room 
-as the angels welcomed the shepherds – despite the reputation of shepherds
-as the wise men were welcomed, despite being from another country and other faiths.

Hospitality means taking risks; ignoring the natural human instinct to fear the unknown, to be wary of the other. Instead, to reach out; to put another’s needs and comforts before your own. Something it is difficult for many of us to do at this or any other time of the year.

There are many theological discussions about where, when and how the birth of Jesus truly came about but what the Gospel tells us is this – that from this very first moment the world is changing; people are changing; the rules are changing. 

The Nativity story heralds the birth of a brave new world – brave because it means living a life that is not about you; that means creating experiences of love; love that gives without expectation of getting back; a re-creation of God’s love.

From before he is even born, Jesus is stirring hearts and minds to this; he brings kindness from a profiteer; shepherds from their duties; wise men from their studies; he brings us from our warm houses and many other 'things to do' to  places of gathering; to be together - friends and strangers sharing in witnessing a new life; praying that the coming of Emmanuel will see  new life; new love within of us.

Let us pray that we will be hospitable with that love.
Every blessing of the Season.


Phil Ewing said...

Wonderful - Thanks and Merry Christmas Gelli !

Claire Bangasser said...

Beautiful, Word. As always.
Thank you once again.
Merry Christmas xoxo

Gelli Ma said...

Thanks to you both for all your support over the year(s). Love and prayers for a wonderful Christmas. <3

Lynda said...

Thank you for this challenging post. I use the word "challenging" because of this phrase: "it means living a life that is not about you". That is a great way to describe what God is calling us to do. Blessings.