This is the second article in a five-part Advent series. If you missed it, here is part one.
Second Advent Sunday
Word: the biblical starting point
“A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” Luke 1:39-45 (NLT)
Wisdom: a guiding sentiment
“In Christian hospitality, our homes are outposts of God’s kingdom.” John R. Prabhakar
Weave: an intertwining of experience or reflection and the biblical story
The mother of John the Baptist, Elizabeth, welcomed the mother of Jesus, Mary, into her home. This was a family visit as Elizabeth and Mary were cousins. To welcome someone into your home or life is to tangibly receive them with approval, kindness and trust. It is an act of gladness, even joy. In Old English parlance, “welcome” conveyed the sense of “one’s arrival being pleasing.” Mary’s arrival into Elizabeth’s home was an experience of gladness and honour; even the unborn John the Baptist “jumped for joy” in Elizabeth’s womb.
Hospitality—welcoming others into our homes and lives—experienced a huge blow during the two years of COVID restrictions. Sadly, much of that has not returned to any sense of normalcy more than a year after these same restrictions were lifted. Even within the Christian community, hospitality took a direct hit. As a current practice, it lumbers along. Scripture instructs me that hospitality to both fellow believers and strangers is a fundamental means of gospel witness.
Welcoming others into our homes and lives creates a space for living out and sharing the good news of Jesus. Hospitality is an act of love and grace, both gospel virtues intertwined with the incarnation of Jesus (John 3:16). Our divinely welcoming and hospitable Father calls us to imitate him (Ephesians 5:1-2). Welcoming people into our personal faith and life places is a genuinely powerful, life-transforming space for edification and evangelism. Here trust is established, and defenses are lowered. Here respect is developed and hearts are opened. Hospitality signals that strangers can become friends and friends can become fellow disciples of Jesus.
Wrestle: pondering next steps
How do you understand welcoming and hospitality? What is its role in your life as a disciple of Jesus who encounters opportunities to receive family, friends, strangers, believers and unbelievers into your personal faith and life spaces? During Advent, no doubt you will have events and gatherings to celebrate the season, but how many of them will be deliberate efforts to bring people into an experience of gospel expression? Elizabeth welcomed Mary (and the unborn Jesus) into her home. The result was both joy and blessing. What would an Advent steeped in a posture of welcoming—of hospitality—look like? Feel like? Sound like?