As we add symbols of love to our Advent wreath, we are reminded of one of the ways we may share our love with others- through our gift of hospitality.
Jacob’s love was shown by his faithful persistence and determination in the work he promised for Rachel. Love changes our perspective in our service; our service becomes joy-filled and significant when we are serving in love. Perhaps that is why we are told to “serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13, NRSV). Jacob’s love gave him the strength and purpose to continue his pursuit of Rachel, despite the time and effort needed. As we think of the effort we put forth in serving our loved ones, Jacob’s story is a wonderful affirmation that love enables us to serve well.
In Leviticus, we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. How does hospitality help us to love our neighbor in these times? Definitions of hospitality include words such as friendly, welcoming, generous… treatment of guests and strangers. Our neighbor is anyone- friend, family member, stranger- who is near enough for us to reach out with loving hospitality. When we are acting in kindness, responding with patience, refraining from anger, offering help, greeting with a smile, listening without distraction, or putting others first, we are examples of friendly and welcoming hospitality.
Psalm 143 reminds us that we need to be filled up before we can be poured out in loving service. We need God’s love and we need Gods guidance in order to serve in love- and to know which way we should serve! A few minutes spent with God each day reaps inspiration and direction for our daily living. Yes, we have plenty to do, especially during these holiday times, but our time with God should be our first priority.
Look at your items of love on the Advent wreath. Thank God for the gift of love shown in God’s son, Jesus, and for the gift of love found in our family and friends. We can show that love in our hospitality to others!
The fourth candle among our remembrances becomes our symbol of love.
Light the fourth candle.
Read Luke 2:1-20
“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7 NRSV)
(We may not have all of the exact information as to what really happened when Jesus was born. The story was written much later and the facts may not be accurate. But this story provides faithful inspiration and wonderful lessons for us all…)
When we read this beautiful story, we might picture lovely, peaceful moments surrounding the birth of Jesus. But let’s put ourselves in Mary’s place. She had just given birth in the most austere conditions: no hospital room with people attending to her needs… no comforts of her own home… no comforts of ANY home! Mary birthed Jesus with Joseph as her only helper. She had no lovely cradle in which she could place Jesus, but only a simple manger. Imagine tired, uncomfortable Mary trying to figure out how to make the best of this situation- only to have unexpected company arrive! After receiving the angelic announcement, the shepherds wasted no time to get to the stable.
The first Christmas came without preparations, without a color-coordinated nursery readied and waiting. The gift for us is this lesson: Jesus came anyway. God sent Jesus without waiting for us to be perfect. God sent Jesus without our preparations in place. God sent Jesus in God’s timing– the only perfect timing! And Mary then shows us what true hospitality is- her hospitality of heart. Mary welcomed God’s plan and God’s son into her life sharing all she had to offer with an open and generous spirit.
This Advent, we may have had interruptions in our plans. Our schedules may not have flowed as smoothly as we had hoped. Unforeseen changes and challenges may have altered our expectation of an ideal Christmas. We may not have spent time with God as often as we had planned. We are very near to Christmas Day, and yet we may feel so unprepared, not completely ready for the celebration of Jesus’ birth.
Jesus comes anyway. God’s precious gift of grace, Jesus, comes to us in God’s timing- before we are ready or worthy! Jesus the Christ is already IN our hearts! We are not perfect, but like Mary, we can offer our hospitality of heart for this God’s presence, this Jesus. We can welcome and embrace this wonderful gift of love- ready or not!