We will begin our celebration of Advent on Sunday. In our congregation, uur Advent theme this year is “Housing the Holy.” Christmas begins with the familiar story of Jesus’ parents searching for a place to stay at this critical moment in their lives. We have only the barest description of their plight; we are told simply that “there was no room for them at the inn” (Luke 2:7). We can only imagine the fear, worry, and concern they experienced as they sought for a place for Mary to give birth.
The “innkeeper,” a popular figure in most church pageants, does not actually appear in Scripture. Our imaginations have ranged between a belligerent gatekeeper who refused entry to the inn and a creative, out-of-the-box thinker who recognized the stable as a worthy substitute for these desperate parents. Whoever directed Mary and Joseph to their hay-filled accommodations changed history forever. Suddenly it became clear that the Son of God, the Prince of Peace, the long- awaited Messiah, would enter the world humbly. He didn’t need a pristine resting place. Jesus’ arrival foreshadowed the way he would live his life – he surprised the wealthy, powerful king by being born in the simplest surroundings. He was prepared for a life of living amongst the outcasts, the forgotten, and the overlooked.
Advent, it turns out, is an opportunity to celebrate hospitality. In these weeks leading up to Christmas, we can wonder how we can make room for God in our lives and how we can house the holy in our lives. How do we welcome God’s Spirit of new life? Hospitality is all about inviting someone in. It is about making room in our hearts – and in our overbooked schedules. When we encounter an obstacle (“the inn is full”), do we imagine other ways to accomplish our goal (“the stable could be a birthing place”)? Are we prepared to be surprised by a God who appears in unusual places?
We live in a world that is often inhospitable and which does not always welcome the outcast or the stranger. How can we open our doors and our hearts?
The days between now and Christmas often fly by. We can get so busy with activities that we don’t notice the quiet whisperings of God. How can we make room for God who is always seeking us? Can we pause? Slow down? Listen?
During this special season of Advent, let us make room so that we can house the love, peace, and hope of God in our hearts. And then let us share those gifts freely with others.