It is the beginning of Advent and we have begun that season of waiting for the arrival of the Christ child. But where will we welcome him? Do we really want him taking up residence in our homes or is easier to relegate him to the stable, to see him as an outsider, not really part of the family? Seeing Jesus in an out of the way place where disreputable people like shepherds can come to worship without us having to worry about them messing up our homes makes life easy for us. We get that glow that tells us Jesus is here but there is very little commitment required of us.
What will it take for us to really welcome Jesus into our homes this Christmas season?
Let’s recognize Jesus as a part of our family.
I have friends who always leave an empty chair at the dinner table when they hold a festive meal. It is a symbol of the fact that Jesus is the unseen guest at all our meals, the family member who is always present even when we cannot see him. It makes me wonder if at this time of year we should set up the manager in the centre of our dining room tables in preparation for the birth of a baby into our families, a constant reminder that Jesus came to be a part of our family and welcome us into God’s eternal family.
Let’s be willing to invite all those who come with him.
They too are part of our family. We cannot welcome Jesus without also extending our hand of welcome to those who gather round the manger – the disreputable and despised, the foreigners and aliens.
These days when a baby is born many young couples keep it cloistered away for the first couple of months, afraid that it will be exposed to germs that it has no immunity to. Most parents would certainly not welcome those who came to see Jesus – first the animals and then the homeless shepherds who slept in the fields at night. Who do we exclude from our families because we are afraid they will contaminate us amd the babies in our midst?
A couple of years ago after reading Kenneth Bailey’s book Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes I wrote this post for Advent Stable, Inn Or Welcoming Home: Where Was Jesus Born and Why Does It Matter? I was so impacted by the idea that Jesus was born into a welcoming family rather than a stable that I followed it up the following year by hosting a series on who we would invite to the manger. As a result of that, one of the reflections in our new devotional A Journey Toward Home, is about the French custom of santons, in which clay models of villagers are positioned around the manger bringing their gifts to the Christ child.
I love this idea of all our neighbours, those we enjoy and those we don’t want to have anything to do with, clustered around the manger, invited into that place of intimate hospitality with God. I encourage all of us to consider creating our own “santons” this Advent and Christmas season, santons of words, photos, and actions, not figures of clay.
I am more convinced than ever that it matters a lot where we think Jesus was born, who was with him and how we relate to him.
What is Your Response.
Sit and think about what kind of Jesus you are waiting for this Advent season. Visualize this baby being born into your family. How would be be welcomed? Who would be welcomed with him? Who would not be welcomed into the family circle around him.
So as we light the first candle of Advent, the candle of hope, listen to Kathy Troccoli as she encourages us to go light our world because, as she says we are a family.