Tag Archives: hospitality

Christmas Eve Eve

The scriptural accounts of Jesus’ birth are full of barbs, pricks, and leaps; yet, over time we’ve become so familiar with the story that we now fail to grasp (let alone appreciate) the blessed disruption that always seems to occur when God appears.

Now, allow me to briefly examine the second of three things wrong with the Christmas story as we commonly hear it: The under-appreciation of Elizabeth’s choice to be hospitable.

“At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!  But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!’”  (Luke 1:39-45, NIV)

Like Joseph, whom we briefly discussed in the December 20 post, Elizabeth acted against the prevailing sentiments of her day in obedience to God.  The book of Proverbs says that “a brother is born for a time of adversity,”  and it is during adversity that loyalties are proven.

When Mary learned of her crucial role in the Incarnation, it turned her world upside-down.  Understandably, Mary “got ready and hurried” to her relative Elizabeth, perhaps in hope that Elizabeth might provide her “context” for her situation, since she had recently experienced her own miracle — with all of its attendant uncertainties.

Often, when God leads us through a desert it is because we are being prepared to help those who will follow.  In this regard, Elizabeth did not disappoint.  Elizabeth’s first words to Mary were words of affirmation and hospitality.  May God help each of us to gladly welcome and to affirm those who seek our counsel.  – Luther

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“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”  (Hebrews 13:2, NIV)

During the funeral service for a dear friend and early mentor of mine, her former pastor commented on how my friend and her husband were models of hospitality.

“Hospitality is inviting someone to inhabit your space,” the pastor said.  I had not heard a more simple yet profound definition of the word “hospitality” before — or since.

The writer of the book of Hebrews reminds us to invite strangers to inhabit our space.  Our spaces are usually cultivated, comfortable, and secure.  Yet, the stranger often enjoys none of those benefits because he is often far, far from his own home.

It is through the practice of hospitality that we expose ourselves to the possibility of serving one of God’s angels; the possibility of making a new friend; and the certainty of being obedient to God.  – Luther

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